Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Thoughts on “Theorizing with GIS: a tool for critical geographies”

Monday, November 25th, 2019

The central argument of this paper is that quantitative and qualitative methods should be seen in terms of a continuum instead of as two separate toolboxes in conducting GIS research. I agree with this argument and I think that there is no clear boundary between quantitative and qualitative research. Most of the time in research we see that even though the method applied is quantitative, the problem it asks is inherently qualitative, and qualitative research also often contains quantitative components. This is shown in some AI research such as natural language processing. The tool itself is quantitative whereas the inferences it makes or the problems it solves are qualitative. In this sense, should there even be a line to distinguish whether or not the research is quantitative or qualitative?

I also noticed that even though this paper discusses a lot about the opportunities of qualitative research in GIS, it is still calling GIS a “tool” instead of a “science”, which reminds me of a lot id discussion in the class. This is kind of conflicting because the points the author made about how we research can be conducted surround GIS makes GIS a science instead of a tool. So I guess the title should be “GIScience for critical geographies”.

Thoughts on critical GIS

Monday, November 25th, 2019

This article started by bring out two methods that are widely used in GIScience related researches: qualitative methods and quantitative methods. There is one sentence that I think is very interesting: “Geographers keep equating quantitative methods with advanced statistical and spatial analysis, and, therefore, scientific analysis and qualitative methods with ‘a mix of coffee room discourse, vendor sales hype, informal social interviews with one or two people, and an active imagination’”. Actually, this is very similar to what I think about these two methods as a geographer before reading this article. The part I exposed to GIScience are mostly quantitative, so I what I learned in my undergrad for GIScience techniques are very statistical and mathematical. This has made be quite confused for a while. But I think the authors’ idea that “the use of GIS requires a certain amount of specialized knowledge but this knowledge is different from the expertise in quantitative analysis” has solved my confusion.

So, I think there might be a blurry line between quantitative studies and GIScience, and the quantitative problem in GIScience researches all have a geographical context, which makes it special.

And then it is interesting that we are back to the question that whether GIS is a tool or a science. She has made several points in her article, and I thinks those ideas are very well illustrated and can be easily understood by people in the other fields.

Thoughts on Geosurveillance

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

This article about privacy issues in geospatial data gives me a broader idea of the surveillance issue in GIScience. Looking back at my past researches and projects, I have used a lot of data that have location information in it. Some of the information in the dataset are very well protected. As the literature have mentioned, people can protect some of the information by perturbation, aggregation, considering the level of privacy defined by user preferences, shortening the time collection period, and removing sensitive areas. However, not all data are processed by these steps. In one project, I have used some of the twitter data directly download from twitter. Those data reveals tweets with accurate coordinates together with time, username, and contents. So, each line of data has very detailed information in it, and it could be used for anything. So this makes me thing that do people still have privacy where big data are very prevalent recently.

The author also argues that this has a lot to do with users’ awareness of data privacy. I agree that most people will just skip reading privacy policy when they trying to register for websites or apps. Do this necessarily mean if we have more awareness towards data privacy, then we can gain more privacy?

I think in some cases, people do not have a choice to decide whether they want to share this kind if information. And, yes, I think as a researcher we should definitely consider privacy issue when we are dealing with sensitive data and follow the privacy checklists that the author provides.

A Geoprivacy Manifesto (Keßler & McKenzie, 2018)

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

In this paper, the authors describe the current states of the art of location privacy and formulate challenges. The first of the 21 theses in the manifesto on geoprivacy states that location privacy stands apart from information privacy. The reasons for this include the range of inferences that can be drawn from location, the ease of capturing individuals’ locations, and the incentives which draw users to share their locations with service providers. As a special form of information privacy, is it adequate to apply information privacy models and algorithms for location privacy protection? Additionally, different users tend to have various location privacy requirements. How to enhance the available information privacy techniques to protect location privacy?

What I am also interested in is the benefits of sharing locations. The authors mention that location privacy is intricately related to service quality. The service provider processes a request based on its understanding regarding customers’ location, and more precise location information leads to higher quality of the service delivered. Besides helping to improve service quality, sharing locations is being able to find people in emergencies. Therefore, I wonder if people would become more comfortable with sharing their locations when they feel the benefits outweigh the risks.

Theorizing with GIS: a tool for critical geographies? (Pavlovskaya, 2006)

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

This paper by Marianna Pavlovskaya (2006) provides an insightful discussion of theoretical issues related to the distinction between quantitative and qualitative methods. The author does not insist that GIS is either quantitative or qualitative. Critically analyzing the construction of the opposition between quantitative and qualitative methods and the process of breaking the links between epistemologies and methods has occurred in the last decade, Pavlovskaya argues that GIS is not always as quantitative as many geographers assume and claims to an originally non-quantitative GIS enable.

This paper highlights the key role of critical GIS in drawing attention to the potential of incorporating qualitative data and research into spatial analysis. Geographers should notice the importance of doing GIS in critical contexts. For example, much research has examined bikeability, which is the bicycle-friendliness of urban environment, using objective and quantitative measures, such as distance and topography. The qualitative data like perception and emotions of the cyclists can be used to measure the comfort in relation to cycling and improve the experience of cyclists.

The author also mentions that a growing literature on ‘mixed-methods’ integrates quantitative and qualitative techniques. All methods have specific limitations as well as particular strengths, we should combine qualitative and quantitative methods to compensate for their mutual and overlapping weaknesses. For example, in travel behavior studies, while quantitative methods can be applied to measure the frequency and distributions of trips, qualitative approaches focus on the subjective experiences of individuals related to travel and explain the relations that quantitative methods find.

“You have zero privacy anyway, get over it!”

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

How long can the concept of privacy as we currently understand it last? The quote here, pulled from Duckham and Kulik’s 2006 paper, cuts strait to the point of the privacy debate in the modern era. Even a broad overview of the different conceptions of geoprivacy, as written in this paper, can never successfully address the cultural drive to change norms around privacy. This is best captured in this case by a footnote on page 3, which points towards historic examples of radically different conceptions of privacy. It’s clear that due to cloud computing, the internet, and globalized social media networks we are in the midst of a paradigm shift when it comes to how most people in the world conceive of the line between public and private. While it is clear there will be (and are) negative ramifications of this trend, as outlined in this paper, the steamroller of history is clearly trending towards a far less private world than has ever been seen before. This begs the especially interesting question of what will this change do to culture and society, particularly when geoinformation is considered. What does a country where everyone knows where everyone else is all the time look like? I don’t think it’s especially far off.

Extending the history of critical cartography

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

Crampton and Krygiers “Introduction to critical cartography” traces the historical roots of the current fixation on critical cartography. I found it to be a compelling read that does an excellent job of providing a description of the field. I especially liked the described purpose of critical cartography – “A critique is not a project of finding fault, but an examination of the assumptions of a field of knowledge. Its purpose is to understand and suggest alternatives to the categories of knowledge that we use. ”

The paper did however leave out the older roots of the concept of critical cartography. CC is framed as a response to the positivist, inflexible discipline of mapmaking that emerged in the early-to-mid 20th century. However, what preceded this era? Cartographic history goes back thousands of years, and the conception of what a map is often changes. I would argue, and I believe the authors would agree, that mapmaking from the age of exploration through the industrial revolution was hyper-aware of it’s own political and cultural biases. Maps were universally made as projects to further an imperial or other political entities goals, and often did not necessarily reflect the truth on the ground. This was an intentional decision by mapmakers who understood the purpose of maps to be something other than scientific.

The rise of science, in conjunction with the industrial revolution and the second wave of colonialism, fundamentally changed how many around the world perceived “truth.” What from this era directly led to the conceptualizations we see built into the movement towards positivist cartography found the century after? It’s clear than an entire book on the history of critical cartography could be written – and certainly has, given a short review of other available literature.

Thoughts on “A geoprivacy manifesto”

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

This paper proposes 21 theses that summarize the main arguments related to geoprivacy. It argues that geoprivacy has mainly be addressed isolatedly from the technological and ethical points of view. There is a lack of integrative research on technological, ethical, economical, legal, and educational aspects of geoprivacy.

The concern of geoprivacy has been discussed a lot in previous GIScience topics. The concerns are largely due to the increasing amount of location data shared with external parties. Such concern can be intensified with GeoAI increasingly applied to make inference at a larger scale. This makes geoprivacy an important topic to discuss from various perspectives as discussed in this paper.

Most of the time we are talking about how locational devices infringe upon our privacy, whereas this article brings up an interesting point of how location information can be used for the good. One of the theses argues that individuals have the incentive to share their location information with providers for better services. Another similar situation is the use of locational data for better surveillance in the cities. This brings up the question of how much we should care about geoprivacy vs. better service, and how much we should preserve an individua’s right to privacy vs. better public surveillance.

Thoughts on Fair Information Practices

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

In the reading “Location Privacy and Location-Aware Computing,” the authors talk about the five principles of fair information practices, which are regulatory strategies to protect location privacy. The first is notice and transparency, making individuals aware of who’s collecting their data. However, I’m not convinced that this helps to protect location privacy. The public is becoming increasingly aware of how much data social media companies collect on our location, for example, and while there has been some outcry this hasn’t prevented such a location privacy breach. The second is consent and use limitation, making individuals consent to personal information being collected. As so many people check “Terms of Service” boxes when downloading apps without reading them, consenting to data being collected on them without realizing it, I also don’t think that consent is enough to protect location privacy- informed consent is. The third fair information practice is access and participation: individuals must be able to access stored personal data. While this is possible, most people are not aware that it is or how they could access their data, so just making such an action feasible doesn’t mean the public at large will practically be able to take advantage of it. The fourth is integrity and security, companies who collect data having to keep them safe from “unauthorized access.” As a number of data hacks over the years has shown, companies may attempt to do this but have not always been successful. Therefore, while all of these practices are nice in theory, they have not been particularly meaningful in practice. Until all individuals are aware of how much location data companies collect of them, give informed consent for such data collection, and have easy, reasonable access to such data, these practices will not practically protect the public at large from unfair or excessive location data collection.

Thoughts on “An Introduction to Critical Cartography” by Crampton & Krygier

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

This paper was an interesting read and a good introduction to critical cartography. However, I wonder if the democratization of cartography is quite as bottom-up now as the authors portray it to be in 2005. Nowadays, we have well-developed, public online mapping platforms like Google Maps and Open Street Maps, just to name a few. This makes me question how much the common person is interested in making their own map, when for the most part they have access to these free and relatively thorough platforms. Perhaps in places where the most popular online platforms aren’t well developed (for example, Port-aux-Prince before the earthquake in Haiti as Liz mentioned in her presentation), someone may be inclined to create their own map the way the authors describe. The same may be the case if a map exists but is not accurate. Otherwise, however, why would someone spend their time making a map if an accurate one already exists? In addition, if one were to make a map in this modern era of transition from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0, with the internet so populated with information and even institutions, could this process really be bottom-up? That’s to say, in a world with so much information from “higher authorities” like governments and private institutions, could individuals make maps in a vacuum, with no influence from such authorities? I would say they can’t. If individuals are pulling information or data from the Internet that come from a higher source, then the map they make using such data isn’t top-down. Perhaps back in 2005 the internet was still early enough in its development, and enough people weren’t using it, that bottom-up cartography was still a possibility. Now, however, the internet is a blessing and a curs that would prevent such a bottom-up process in mapmaking.

Reading “A geoprivacy manifesto” (Keßler & McKenzie, 2017)

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

This article gives a thorough introduction to a very relevant problem: geoprivacy. We have spent so much time bringing privacy issues up in class as potential issues and strains of thought in many GIS techniques, such as geoAI or VGI. I am excited to learn more about this issue as it concerns my everyday life as someone who regularly shares geospatial data via social media.

What interested me the most was the section on the legal and ethical aspects of geoprivacy. It seems like such a slippery slope as different countries have different privacy definitions and that many privacy issues transcend country borders. 

I also have a few questions from the reading. How do researchers and others determine which data is just not private enough to be anonymized? Not sure if this question has an answer, but  is there anything that we can do now to protect our geospatial information, or is it too late? How can we protect the most vulnerable (people who do not realize their privacy is being compromised at all)?

Researching Volunteered Geographic Information (Elwood et al., 2012)

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

In this paper, the authors classify sites related to the collection of VGI in order to study VGI quality and develop methods for analyzing VGI. VGI has altered how spatial data are created and the mechanisms for using and sharing these data. Because VGI is driven by contributors’ collective efforts, I am curious to know what motivates individuals to give freely of their time and expertise to develop VGI? What makes contributors stop contributing information to VGI projects? How do their motivations change as they engage in VGI activities? Will individuals map an area that has already been mapped in the last few years?

The authors point out concerns over the quality and trustworthiness of VGI. As we know, VGI has been used as an alternative to commercial or proprietary datasets. This makes me wonder about how can a VGI project, with no strict data specification or quality control, establish some type of trust. How to measure the reputation of a contributor to provide a better understanding of the quality and trust of the data? How to assess the quality of the contributions? Last, the authors mention that “VGI has the potential to address and constraints and omissions that plague SDIs”. Although VGI has concerns about data quality and scale and will not completely replace SDIs, I believe that VGI will become a key spatial data producer in SDIs.

Towards the Geospatial Web (Scharl, 2007)

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

This chapter identifies the possibilities of spatial knowledge extraction from unstructured text. Unstructured data does not necessarily require a more structured geography. But if these data are combined with other datasets that are geolocated, being able to geolocate these data might be useful. Translating text into geographic information is difficult. It is also a much more difficult proposition than simply assigning coordinates to photographs. The author introduces geoparsing, which is a process used to extract spatial data from texts. In addition to photos and videos, we can now geotag text messages, tweets, and more. But what about the data generated before the emergence of geoweb? Can we extract spatial information from old new articles? How can we add a spatial structure to data that do not already have it in order to mesh it with geoweb? Also, I am looking forward to knowing some useful tools for geoparsing.

Furthermore, this chapter doesn’t clarify what exactly the geoweb is. What are the boundaries between the web and geoweb? Last, many of the platforms that we rely on for geographic information are for-profit entities that do not have issues of justice and equity. However, it is important for us to note that how the geoweb encode, reify, and (re)produce inequality.

Thoughts on Geospatial Web

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

After reading this article, I found out that the geospatial web is much more than what I expected before. It turns out that geospatial web can not only be used in geography studies, but also can be used in other disciplines.

The article has mentioned that “Once geospatial context information becomes widely available, any point in space will be linked to a universe of commentary on its environmental, historical and cultural context, to related community events and activities and to personal stories and preferences”. So, I have a very interesting thoughts on this statement. Researches augmented reality are very popular in recent years. And I would say each world build in AR should also be in a certain geospatial context, so the things in that world also have some kind of location information. If it doesn’t have a location, the AR world would be a mess since everything will be floating around.

Obviously, the location information in AR world cannot be directly interpreted coordinates that exists in real world. But still, AR have some way to have all the things geolocated. And as mentioned in the author’s statement, it should be linked to a universe of commentary where the AR world can have some environmental, historical and cultural context. As a result, the AR world are very similar to the real world. So, the question would be can we have a geospatial web based on the AR world?

I would say yes, but I’m still curious about how can this works.

Thoughts on VGI

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

With the development of the Internet, volunteered geographic formation played a more a more important role in not only geographic information science, but also human geography, human geography, and geographic education. But I noticed that the author emphasizes explicitly about the importance of the volunteer part. The author thinks that in order to be referred to as VGI, the people who involve in this should know that that are doing it voluntarily but not passively. Then this leaves me a question, then where should we categorize the data that are generated passively?

Besides, the author also mentioned that no one can guarantee the data quality of VGI data. Then I think it would be a big problem especially when researchers are using the data to make some critical decisions. Data uncertainty problem are always important no matter in what discipline. The data quality of VGI data, however, are extra harder to evaluate because it is volunteered, and they are collected and analyzed by different groups of people with different background. So, my question is that is there any way that researchers can at least take the data uncertainty problem into consideration when they are using it. The characteristics of the VGI data made it even harder to use regular ways to evaluate the data quality.

Another point is the author mentioned that there is some connection between Geospatial web and VGI, but he didn’t explain it. I’m very curious that is there any examples or explanation of it.

Le GéoWeb

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

The advent of the Internet followed by the arrival of Web 2.0 have no doubt changed the way geographic information is obtained and shared, a fact that is well described by this article by Haklay et. Al. Without saying the age for paper maps is behind us, the internet has propelled us into an era where internet and geography are combined like never before.

Although the Internet has allowed many to navigate on a digital Earth for the first time, several issues have appeared from the combination of the internet and the discipline of geography. The field has been democratized by the increased online accessibility to geographic tools and mashups, which increases the visibility of geography but also could be seen as being reductionist, geography essentially being non-experts having fun by geotagging pictures. Speaking of geotagging, the social media boom has lead to people going en masse to previously unvisited areas, a phenomenon that has led to an explosion of visitors to the Horseshoe Bend in Arizona for example, something that has drastically affected the local environment.

Who is the crowd?

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

This post is written in response to both the articles covering the geoweb and those covering VGI.

In reviewing these topics, I’m struck by an interesting thing that seems unaddressed. Within both topics, there are extensive references to the power of open street map and numerous examples of OSM as an example of both VGI and as an important part of the GeoWeb. Recent discoveries of mass corporate edits of Open Street Map have upended the academic conceptualization of the product, and throw much of the rhetoric used in both VGI and in the GeoWeb into disarray. The main question raised by this development, as I see it, is who is the “crowd” in “crowdsourcing.”

The internet is an incredibly complex system. In understanding the internet, much research is focused on the interactions between individual humans and the internet. These interactions are the end-point of the GeoWeb system and the input point of VGI systems. These points involve extensive flows of information back and forth (a defining aspect of Web 2.0).

We normally conceive of the end-consumers as individual human beings. When these consumers are represented by entities that consist of large groups of humans, such as governments or companies, the way the system works changes. The end user can no longer be assumed to have one set of ideologies or use-cases, and the power of a single large multi-person entity may be exponentially greater than a single person. These entities have MUCH more complex physical bounds than a single person, so the offered VGI information from these entities may not fit well within our traditional concepts of maps. Similarly, the usage of the Geoweb by these entities likely fits the definition of “Geocomplexity.” in that it will certainly generate emergent spatial systems. The large scale relationship between the internet and institutions is deserving of further research.

Extending this idea, the entities that the Geoweb is interacting with, and the entities that may be generating VGI, might not be human at all. Animals with trackers that are uploaded to the internet, or entire ecosystems being viewed from a satellite play with our loose definitions of both concepts. Can the actions of a lumber company using online map data analysis to decide where to cut be considered a natural process?

At the extreme edges of this train of thought, the internet may be interacting with and receiving information from AI’s or from itself. These internal loops and systems happening inside a computer resemble those occurring outside, and when the internet of things is considered the line between physical and digital becomes blurry. Where do you draw lines?

Thoughts on Researching Volunteered Geographic Information

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

Elwood et al.’s article discusses the emergence of VGI as a new form of geographic information and how this can influence geographic research. This article did a good job analyzing the related concerns and issues in using VGI in geographic research, which provides me with a lot of new insights on this topic. I’m particularly drawn by two points discussed in the article.
The first point is the data quality of VGI. Researchers are often concern about the data quality of VGI as it is non-authoritative and has not been validated in a formal way. In response to this, the authors argue that VGI can be regarded as authoritative on the basis that it originates from direct local knowledge and observations, and the reliability can be rested on the convergence of information generated by a number of contributors. However, this does not mean that expertise is not important anymore. As argued earlier in the article, “expertise, tools, and theoretical frameworks of professional geographers are essential to addressing many of the more profound questions associated with VGI”, including the issue of data quality. I’m wondering what role professional geographers could and should play in the data quality issue related to VGI, given that the reliability is based on the “similarity of the submissions”.
Second, the authors highlight the issue of digital divide formed by the VGI. Several groups or individuals are included while others are excluded in creating and using VGI. For researchers who are using VGI as research input, it is important to realize that the data is biased towards the people who are “privileged” in contributing to this information.

Thoughts on Neogeography

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

I have several concerns about neogeography as it’s defined and described in the “Web Mapping 2.0” article. The quote from Turner portrays neogeography as “fun” and “about sharing location information with friends and visitors, helping shape context, and conveying understanding through knowledge of place.” However, I’d push back on both of these notions. First of all, why would geography have to be fun? Making an academic pursuit more inherently enjoyable could run the risk of eroding the rigor of the field. This could come off as me being “elitist,” and I don’t want geography to be inaccessible to anyone who’d like to use it. However, if anyone (academic or layperson) finds geography not “fun” enough to pursue, then they shouldn’t pursue it; creating a snazzy “neogeography” for them to utilize would almost necessarily make it easier and less rigorous, diluting and weakening their results. Furthermore, can’t it already be fun? I think it is! With regards to the applications of neogeography, can’t geography/GIS already be used for “sharing location information… helping shape context, and conveying understanding through knowledge of place?” For example, the paper “Extending the Qualitative Capabilities of GIS” by Jung and Elwood thoroughly discusses how GIS can be used to display meaning and context, and it was written in 2010. Why come up with a “neogeography” to complete these tasks, when existing GIS technologies can do the same thing as is or with slight modifications? Perhaps I’m too caught up in the current paradigm of what GIS is/should be; regardless, however, we should ask ourselves if going through the effort of creating, classifying, or distinguishing a new kind of geography from the status quo is necessary or appropriate.

Thoughts on “Citizens as Sensors”

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

I really liked this piece, and thought it was an easy/informative read (thanks Liz!). One place where I thought it was lacking, however, was in the “Concerns” section. Goodchild talks about how only the privileged may be able to contribute VGI, and as a result they may be overrepresented or may over-benefit from analyses/policies that come from VGI, like disaster relief plans. This is probably true, but Goodchild fails to consider what a double-edged sword VGI can be. He’s only looking at examples of VGI being used for “good;” however, that won’t always be the case. Those who can’t contribute VGI because of their social status and wealth (for example, lack of phone) won’t benefit as much from well-meaning and helpful uses of VGI; however, it can also be argued that they won’t be hurt as much by improper uses of VGI. I’m probably looking at this through too much of a geodemographics/Big Data lens, but I can imagine VGI being used for nefarious purposes. In such cases, not being able to contribute to VGI (for example, those “off the grid”) may be beneficial, as the powers that be (government, private sector, etc) cannot use your data against you. Goodchild has made the assumption that VGI is used to help society and individuals; from this viewpoint, everyone would want to be able to contribute VGI. However, as data privacy and the like become bigger problems, will we? I think there will be a balance to strike between wanting to contribute VGI to reap the resulting policy benefits and holding back from contributing as much VGI to avoid potential negative impacts