Thoughts on “Citizens as Sensors”

I really liked this piece, and thought it was an easy/informative read (thanks Liz!). One place where I thought it was lacking, however, was in the “Concerns” section. Goodchild talks about how only the privileged may be able to contribute VGI, and as a result they may be overrepresented or may over-benefit from analyses/policies that come from VGI, like disaster relief plans. This is probably true, but Goodchild fails to consider what a double-edged sword VGI can be. He’s only looking at examples of VGI being used for “good;” however, that won’t always be the case. Those who can’t contribute VGI because of their social status and wealth (for example, lack of phone) won’t benefit as much from well-meaning and helpful uses of VGI; however, it can also be argued that they won’t be hurt as much by improper uses of VGI. I’m probably looking at this through too much of a geodemographics/Big Data lens, but I can imagine VGI being used for nefarious purposes. In such cases, not being able to contribute to VGI (for example, those “off the grid”) may be beneficial, as the powers that be (government, private sector, etc) cannot use your data against you. Goodchild has made the assumption that VGI is used to help society and individuals; from this viewpoint, everyone would want to be able to contribute VGI. However, as data privacy and the like become bigger problems, will we? I think there will be a balance to strike between wanting to contribute VGI to reap the resulting policy benefits and holding back from contributing as much VGI to avoid potential negative impacts

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