Tag Archives: VGI

Geothink.ca: How the Geospatial Web 2.0 is reshaping government-citizen interactions

Recently I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of a team that has been awarded a SSHRC Partnership Grant for a 5-year study of “How the Geospatial Web 2.0 is reshaping government-citizen interactions”, also called Geothink. This is an unparalleled opportunity to make a long-term impact on emerging research themes of open data, citizen digital participation, and to trace the changing nature of geospatial data creation and use. A description from the grant application:

“Major technology firms like Google, Microsoft and Apple are competing for dominance in web and mobile mapping. These new technologies represent not only a multi-billion dollar industry but a revolution in mapping. Firms build platforms like Google Maps and Bing Maps; individuals “mash” them up on the web or in location-based applications (apps). People contribute the data; they tweet street conditions; their mobile apps deliver directions to the nearest coffee shop, whose reviews also were contributed by individuals. Governments add to the data stream by increasing accessibility of their data, like realtime transportation information. These new forms of map making, called the Geospatial Web 2.0 (Geoweb), are important for Canada, known as a world leader in map making and geographic technologies but whose leadership has since waned.


Our research untangles the hype of the Geoweb. The hype is that the Geoweb increases government efficiency and transparency because more data is online and because non-experts provide data formerly the domain of government. New apps promise to improve citizen participation in a global conversation about where they live and even rewire power relationships. Behind the hype a rapidly evolving Geoweb might rework concepts of individual privacy and collective community. A lack of funding or staff can prevent Geoweb adoption by government; status quo approaches and complex legislation can block efforts to improve government data sharing and may close channels for direct citizen input. Most governments struggle to open their data for sharing or find it difficult to measure the accuracy or authenticity of crowdsourced data. Web 2.0 can reduce respect for experts and increase a tendency for people to be “alone together”, interacting exclusively online.”


Volunteered Geographic Information special session at CAG 2012

For anyone heading to the 2012 Canadian Association of Geographers Annual Meeting in Waterloo (May 28 – June 2), I am co-hosting (with Dr. Rob Feick) two sessions on VGI and GIScience 2.0. The session are called “TECHNOLOGY, SCIENCE AND CITIZENS: GIScience 2.0 and the role of volunteered geographic information”. The first session is from 1:30-3:00 on Wednesday May 30th, and the second is from 3:30 – 5:00 on the same day. Both sessions are being held in the Peters building, room 1013, on Laurier University campus. Here is a list of abstracts being presented:

Session One

Wednesday 1:30 to 3:00, Peters 1013

1. Shayne Wright, University of British Columbia Okanagan, “Access, Engagement and Change: Characteristics for Indentifying Community Participation on the Geospatial Web.”

2. Michael G. Leahy, ESRi Canada, “The influence of Participation Format on VGI Creation and Collaboration in a PPGIS.”

3. Jonathan Cinnamon, Simon Fraser University, “Volunteered Geographic Information and the data- divide.”

4. Michael Martin, University of British Columbia, “Online Volunteerism, Geographers and the Global South: Recognizing Opportunity and Reality with Mapping across Borders.”

Session Two

5. Samantha Brennan, University of British Columbia Okanagan, “Igniting Interest in Online Participatory Mapping: VGI and Forest Fire Impacts.”

6. Richard Kelly, University of Waterloo, “The Snowtweets Project: crowdsourcing snow information using social media.”

7. Peter A. Johnson, McGill University, “How Sustainable is the Geoweb?”

Hope to see you there!

Make your own user-contributed map with Crowdmap.com

One of the most exciting Geoweb developments of 2010 has to be www.crowdmap.com, a fully packaged, hosted, user-contributed mapping solution produced by the non-profit tech company Ushahidi. You may have heard of Ushahidi, the developers of collaborative map-making technology first used to gather reports of violence from cell phone users during the 2007 Kenyan election. This technology has since been used in many other crisis mapping situations, from the earthquake in Haiti, to the recent New York snowstorm.

Briefly, both the Ushahidi and the Crowdmap.com platforms allow users to contribute spatially-referenced data, such as comments, observations, photos, or other hyperlinked media to a map. Of course you can do this with Google Maps, particularly Google MyMap or with sites developed with the Google Maps API. Crowdmap provides a near-instant, no-coding setup that improves on a Google Map because it can accept data coming from wide variety of input methods and requires no login. We all know that logins are a huge impedance to participation (though there are benefits as well), but the ability to accept input from web users, SMS/text message, twitter #hashtag, and email makes Crowdmap a potentially very powerful tool.

Ushahidi and Crowdmap were originally targeted towards crisis mapping, however there are countless uses for the Crowdmap platform. I just checked the Ushahidi twitter stream and one that jumped out at me is the ATM mapping in Manchester, NH implementation. Setting up this site was as simple and creating a user account and ticking several preference boxes. Another crisis-related use of Crowdmap that is starting to trend on twitter is the Queensland floods map.

Any way that you can think of mobilizing a community to address some spatially-related issue, Crowdmap can help. How are you currently using (or planning to use) Crowdmap?

The World Wide Lab: The Changing Nature of Science

An amazing article from Wired magazine, by the great Bruno Latour that I dug out from the archives.


It’s short and full of big, roughly articulated ideas, but the main thrust is that the age of the conventional laboratory as the driving forward force in science is slowly coming to an end. I find that this meshes well with concepts of Neogeography and Mike Goodchild’s “Volunteered Geographic Information”, or citizens as sensors. Anyways, I found it a good read and it immediately got me thinking about how to harness this type of data for use in making an ABM.

In other news, I’m getting social and you can now follow me on Twitter – http://twitter.com/peterajohnson I’d love to connect with the audience, so please track me down.