Virtual Environment in need of more development for spatial learning

In Michael Goodchild’s article “Citizens as Sensors: The World of Volunteered Geography” (2005), he summarizes the pros and cons of VGI, and some of the barriers that stand in the way of true citizen science. The debate over VGI is, in essence, a debate of privileged technically-proficient scientists versus the masses of under-educated (for the purposes of most applications of VGI) earth citizens. While those skilled individuals have the technical abilities to carry out analysis, there is a huge amount of untapped data that is available from citizens themselves. Using this data, however, might lead to a privacy dispute, underrepresentation in some people due to the digital divide, and a lack of accuracy in the data available.


While the Web 2.0 has much data to offer, much of it is in new data formats that might not be useable right now in commercial GIS software. It is the revolution that makes VGI possible. Digital divide aside, most people can provide useful information if provided with a clear, considerate, interface that makes them want to volunteer their information. Using the citizens as scientists themselves seems like a viable option, since 7 billion walking around a planet are likely to observe things faster and more accurately than a select group of scientists. However, the way this data is reported, processed, and analyzed is what the dispute is really about. Citizens must be involved in all steps of the process, and some way of ensuring equal representation of all citizens must be established. As Goodchild stresses, VGI has the potential to be a cheap and effective source of information if implemented properly.


Pointy McPolygon


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