Mapmaking For The Masses

<p>In an academic journal article, noted geographer Michael Goodchild argues that user-generated content can profoundly impact Geographic Information Systems.</p>
January 2, 2008, 10am PST | Chris Steins | @urbaninsight
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"...'Volunteered geographic information' has the potential to be a significant source of geographers' understanding of the surface of the Earth. Its most interesting, lasting and compelling value to geographers lies in what it can tell them about local activities in various geographic locations that go unnoticed by the world's media," Goodchild says.

From the conclusion of his paper:

"The world of VGI [volunteered geographic information] is chaotic, with little in the way of formal structures. Information is constantly being created and cross-referenced, and flows in all directions, since producers and consumers are no longer distinguishable. Timescales are enormously compressed, and a site such as Wikimapia can go from zero to millions of entries in a matter of months.

What is perhaps most surprising about the world of VGI is the fact that tens of thousands of citizens are willing to spend large amounts of time contributing, without any hope of financial reward, and often without any assurance that anyone will ever make use of their contributions. The same kind of motivation drives the world of blogs, and is one of the most interesting of the many new kinds of social behavior that have emerged with the rise of the Internet.

Like any large-scale activity, VGI is having its own effects on geospatial standards. KML, the language of the Google Earth API, is now the subject of an agreement with the Open Geospatial Consortium, which hopes to adopt it as a standard for communication with virtual globes."

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Published on Monday, December 31, 2007 in Science Daily
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