The State of Spatial Volunteerism

In his article titled ‘Is VGI participation? From vernal pools to video games‘ Tulloch answers the questions he proposes though the presentation of two case studies that feature volunteered geographic information (VGI). VGI is characterized by the collection, organization and dissemination of geographic information by volunteers working individually or in groups. Tulloch works throughout his piece to outlining the overlap between VGI and public participation GIS (PPGIS), as well as the difference between the two fields of study. The clear distinction comes in the level of recognition in the domain of GIScience, with VGI lacking robust literature making it a far less established field. While this is the case, PPGIS is proposed as a “nexus for […] connecting VGI ideas with existing [GIScience] literature”. While an overlap exists between the established PPGIS and VGI, the goals of each field of study differ, the formers is accepted having clear intentions for the empowerment of the public to a position of influence in the policy decision process, where as VGI can be viewed as a frivolous activity, a hybrid of entertainment and informal volunteerism.

A major question that arises from the reading of this article is whether VGI requires a widely accepted positioning within the larger GIScience body of knowledge at all. The innovative and creative aspects of VGI point to the fact that it is a citizen driven domain, where in which the public has access to the tools to volunteer information regardless of whether there exists a policy decision in which the volunteer can participate. Information will always be volunteered, data that can be filtered, assessed and used by professionals or the public as they deem necessary.

While the ontology of VGI may have developed in the 5 years since this article was published, my thoughts align with those of Tulloch, that VGI doesn’t align neatly with PPGIS. There remains many unresolved questions about VGI that when answered will allow it to take hold of its rightful place, standing on its own two feet.

– Othello

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