Public Participation in the 21st Century: Now on a Map! (Sieber et al. 2016)

This paper’s truly interesting in that it addresses the philosophical questions of why people contribute anything, as well as the thought process that goes into contributions, and what makes them valid. I found that grounding of the geospatial web (a brand new topic) to its fundamental core, which is civic participation dating back to ancient Greece (Sieber 2007, p.1042) very needed. Along with reminding the reader that adding a map is a very aesthetic and fun way to contribute data, it still remains as just a GUI of sorts for the user to interact with a larger database. This increased interaction of user to web-architect does not necessarily equate to a reduced digital divide however, as was interestingly brought up with the rural participants of the FASNO project, who found Web 1.0 more comfortable than the Web 2.0. It’s sad to say the least that with technological advances, and increased access to the web that those left behind are now more behind than ever and are thus excluded (or feel excluded) from contributing in a new social group/setting.

It’s also useful to consider how ‘contributions are increasingly monetized’ (Sieber 2007, p.1034), as this plays a large hidden role into how the blurring of expert to non-expert occurs when we no longer know who is mapping. A large part of the time, it’s neither expert, nor non-expert, contributing to maps, though rather commercial entities. With this I mean how Google Maps differs from person to person based on ‘liked’/’saved’ areas, and sponsored markers. Though in the same sense of this article, this needs to be kept in the context that maps have always been made with an agenda, and you could argue that all maps lie to a certain degree to get their creator’s message across.

In short, I feel there should be more papers, or papers like this strip GIS and new forms of the neogeoweb past its GUI and fancy technological capabilities, to the fundamental data behind it, which is simple civic participation. Just this aspect being linked with the geospatial web is an incredibly powerful tool, though a better understanding of the user and to validate and quantify their contributions is definitely needed when moving forward with the discussion of P/PGIS.


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