VGI – Citizens as Sensors Article

In GEOG 407, we discussed the important role VGI plays in neogeography. Goodchild’s article, Citizen as Sensors: the world of volunteered geography, does a good job of exemplifying how the nature of geographic data is changing with the emergence of the Web 2.0 and crowdsourced platforms (2007). For my work on open data standards, I observed how VGI is transforming how civil society interacts with their local government. For example, I looked at an API that allows citizens to file a request with their local government to fix public sector issues such as potholes, fallen trees, and vandalism in their local neighborhoods. VGI allows the Open311 API to establish a two-way communication (acts on both the server and client sides) between government and civil society. In addition, this data is time sensitive and could introduce issues of bias and repetition that is a common problem when many people contribute VGI at the same time. As platforms develop to handle VGI, GIScience must focus on confronting common issues of sorting out duplicate information and applying statistics to live streaming data that lacks a population value.

In addition, Goodchild’s article reminds me of Dena’s discussion about the digital divide and the types of forums that exclude certain voices and epistemologies. As the article points out, only people who have access to the internet contribute VGI. Of course, these people are heavily concentrated in the developed part of the world. Therefore, we must be aware of the inequalities and biased perspectives that contextualize VGI. Finally, as technologies become more reliant on VGI, it is clear that GIScience must further understand what motivates people to contribute information. Much of GIScience will rely and apply data that has been volunteered and crowd sourced. It must also decide how to factor issues surrounding user expertise and accuracy of data being reported. For instance, citizen science must reconcile how to sort out information being reported that is perceived to be scientifically inaccurate. These questions will continue to be important topics of research within the field of GIScience.


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