Goodchild 2007: Are we human, or are we sensors?

VGI and citizen science is a recognition of the potential of mobilizing and utilizing ordinary citizens to aid scientific progress. It is the responsibility of the provider’s of technologies such as Open Street Map and Google Earth to dissolve the boundary between citizen and scientist in a way that preserves accuracy yet encourages involvement. In “Citizen’s as sensors: the world of volunteered geography,” Michael Goodchild describes the intricacies of this boundary in the context of Web 2.o.

I am reminded of last week’s discussion of critical GIS, specifically the issues surrounding the Social Constitution of GIS. I believe the concept of Google Earth mash-up tool is a great example of obscuring the boundaries between elite GIS providers and simple consumers of this technology. In GIS and Society: Towards a research Agenda” (1995), Sheppard speaks of commercially driven GIS and the implications such a GIS could have on the direction of the field. Encouraging citizen involvement in the way Google did diversifies the potential future directions for GIS.

Throughout reading this paper, my opinions on the reliability of volunteered geographic information evolved from skeptical to reassured as Goodchild introduced the increasing institutional support and standards for VGI. In the section titled “Spatial data infrastructure patchworks” the author outlines the way in which government institutions have aided the emergence of VGI. In my studies of the Sharing Economy, I have found the a variety of government responses to the emergence of new user-based technologies and apps. My findings have been as follows: Government sanction doesn’t do much to slow down users, and an embracing of new technology is the only logical response for institutions that wish to remain current and bound in reality.


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