The article of Roongpiboonsopit and Karimi highlights the fact that ubiquitous mapping and new practices facilitated by the technology allow everybody to geocode data without really knowing what is happening ‘behind’ the geocoder tools (, MapQuest, Google, MapPoint, and Yahoo!).

Coding is defined in the article as “applying a rule for converting a piece of information into another”. But who controls the rules ? Users have little control over the process since they don’t interact with the geocoding algorithms and the reference databases.

The authors’ analysis shows the importance of questioning the tool used to produce data because errors and uncertainties related to the data produced have an impact on further analysis and decision making. These points relate to the neogeography literature and critics of GIS discussed during the class. More specifically the debates over ethics and practices of ‘open participation’ as a democratization or as an exploitation of user-generated production of surplus of data. In VGI, is geographic information being produced by ‘citizen censors’ or by ‘cognizant individuals’ as mentioned by Andrew Turner (in Wilson and Graham, 2013)? The two different terms underline the question of how aware citizens are when they produce data and geocoding information. This leads to the question of accuracy and how much we need accuracy. It is probably not always important to achieve a perfect accuracy. However, I think that it is crucial to be aware of the lack of accuracy and to make the uncertainties explicit in contrast of leaving it ‘behind’ the tools.

Furthermore, the uneven results generated by the geocoding processes depending on location can also be linked to the debates discussed earlier in class about the digital divide in GIScience. Data are more accurate in urban and suburban areas than in rural areas due to the quality of reference databases in urban areas. Again, I think that there is a need to make these differences more explicit to users or/and producers in order to bridge the gap between experts and amateurs’ production of knowledge.

Wilson, M. W. et M. Graham (2013). Neogeography and volunteered geographic information: a conversation with Michael Goodchild and Andrew Turner. Environment and Planning A, 45(1), 10-18.


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