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Posts tagged vgi
New paper: "Barriers to the Localness of Volunteered Geographic Information"

Some colleagues (Shilad Sen, Heather Ford, Dave Musicant, Oliver Keyes, Brent Hecht) and I have put together a paper for CHI on Barriers to the Localness of Volunteered Geographic Information. The paper asks important questions about both the geographies of information, and the factors that explain those geographies:

Localness is an oft-cited benefit of volunteered geographic information (VGI). This study examines whether localness is a constant, universally shared benefit of VGI, or one that varies depending on the context in which it is produced. Focusing on articles about geographic entities (e.g. cities, points of interest) in 79 language editions of Wikipedia, we examine the localness of both the editors working on articles and the sources of the information they cite. We find extensive geographic inequalities in localness, with the degree of localness varying with the socioeconomic status of the local population and the health of the local media. We also point out the key role of language, showing that information in languages not native to a place tends to be produced and sourced by non-locals. We discuss the implications of this work for our understanding of the nature of VGI and highlight a generalizable technical contribution: an algorithm that determines the home country of the original publisher of online content.

You can access a copy of the paper here:

Sen, S. W., Ford, H., Musicant, D. R., Graham, M., Keyes, O. S. B., Hecht, B. 2015 Barriers to the Localness of Volunteered Geographic Information. CHI 2015 (pre-publication version here).

And you can also watch a screencast (excellently narrated by our own Heather Ford) of our forthcoming interactive map tool:

(cross-posted from Geonet – Investigating the Changing Connectivities and Potentials of Sub-Saharan Africa’s Knowledge Economy)

Situating Neogeography: Special Issue of Environment and Planning A

The special issue of Environment and Planning A on neogeography that I edited with Matthew Wilson is now out an available to download. It will undoubtedly be a useful collection for anyone interested in thinking about the coming-togethers of information, the internet, and place.

Theme issue: Situating neogeography

Guest editors: Matthew W Wilson, Mark Graham

Guest editorial
Situating neogeography 
Matthew W Wilson, Mark Graham

Neogeography and volunteered geographic information: a conversation with Michael Goodchild and Andrew Turner 
Matthew W Wilson, Mark Graham

Crowdsourced cartography: mapping experience and knowledge 
Martin Dodge, Rob Kitchin

Situating performative neogeography: tracing, mapping, and performing “Everyone’s East Lake”
Wen Lin

Neogeography and the delusion of democratisation 
Mordechai (Muki) Haklay

Commentary: Political applications of the geoweb: citizen redistricting
Jeremy W Crampton

Augmented realities and uneven geographies: exploring the geolinguistic contours of the web

Mark Graham, Matthew Zook

Featured graphic: Mapping the geoweb: a geography of Twitter 
Mark Graham, Monica Stephens, Scott Hale

p.s. feel free drop me a note if you don’t have institutional access to the journal and would like email copies of any of the articles. 

New paper - Augmented Reality in Urban Places: Contested Content and the Duplicity of Code

I am very happy to report that a paper that I have been working on with Matt Zook and Andrew Boulton has just been accepted for publication in the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.

The paper is titled Augmented Reality in Urban Places: Contested Content and the Duplicity of Code and the abstract is below:

With the increasing prevalence of both geographic information, and the code through which it is regulated, digital augmentations of place will become increasingly important in everyday, lived geographies. Through two detailed explorations of ‘augmented realities,’ this paper provides a broad overview of not only the ways that those augmentations matter, but also the complex and often duplicitous manner that code and content can congeal in our experiences of augmented places. Because the re-makings of our spatial experiences and interactions are increasingly influenced through the ways in which content and code are fixed, ordered, stabilised, and contested, this paper places a focus on how power, as mediated through technological artefacts, code and content, helps to produce place. Specifically, it demonstrates there are four key ways in which power is manifested in augmented realities: two performed largely by social actors, distributed power and communication power; and two enacted primarily via software, code power and timeless power. The paper concludes by calling for redoubled attention to both the layerings of content and the duplicity and ephemerality of code in shaping the uneven and power-laden practices of representations and the experiences of place augmentations in urban places.

Graham, M., M. Zook., and A. Boulton. 2013. Augmented Reality in Urban Places: contested content and the duplicity of code. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 38(3), 464-479. (pre-publication version here)

(and in the spirit of celebration and Internet-related awesomeness, here are some cats playing ping-pong)

AAG session: Information Geographies: Online Power, Representation and Voice - schedule announced

The Association of American Geographers has just released the preliminary program for the 2012 Annual Meeting in New York.


Below are the details of the session that I am co-organising with Matt Zook. The good news is that it is on a Saturday (Feb 25, 2012) and we have some great talks lined up for the session. The bad news is that it is at 8am. We hope that the interesting abstracts below are still appealing enough for you to brave the early morning start. 

Saturday, 2/25/2012, from 8:00 AM - 9:40 AM in Regent Parlor, Second Floor, Hilton New York City



8:00am Creating an image: Cape Town’s tour operators’ self-representation on the Web
Bjorn Surborg (Trinity College Dublin)

This paper investigates which electronic media are utilised by tour operators and other actors in the South African tourism sector to gain access to potential clients and how the content is chosen, generated and placed. The web sites of tour operators, hotels or official tourism promotion agencies are often a visitor’s first experience with a new a place, but there are increasingly many diverse choices for gaining access to place based information through social media (e.g. Facebook), map sites (e.g. Google maps, including street view), travellers’ blogs and others. These are relatively new ways of communicating an image of a place, but in which ways have these new information and communication technologies (ICTs) changed the perception of a place and the way in which it is reproduced? Based on a survey amongst tour operators in Cape Town, South Africa, the paper will explore, if those providing content cater towards the stereotypes and pre-conceived images of Africa or if there is a conscious attempt to provide a more nuanced picture, especially given the diverse independent sources of information that potential tourists can access parallel to a tour operator’s web-site. While the paper will focus on content providers, it will also touch upon the question of what on-line tools are being used by tourists to access information about a place before, during and after a visit.

Mark Graham (Oxford) and Matt Zook (Kentucky)

Digital geospatial information is layered throughout our urban landscapes; it is invisible to the naked eye, but is a central component of the augmentations and mediations of place enabled by hundreds of millions of mobile devices, computers, and other digital technologies. We not just produce, access, and use all of this geospatial information about place, but also access it whilst we are in those very places. Moreover, due to advances in mobile technology, many people now quite literally have access to this information in the palms of our hands.  But far from uniform and ubiquitous, these digital dimensions of places are fractured along a number of axes such as location, language and social networks.

This paper analyzes how these fractures differ across space and language to both highlight the differences and begin the process of explaining the factors behind them.  While some of the disparities conform to longstanding offline patterns, others highlight the changing fortunes and positions of places in a globalizing economy and highlight the increasingly finer scale of differentiation in which understandings of places are constructed.


Jens Riegelsberger (Google), Brent Hecht (Northwestern), Matt Simpson (Google) and Michelle Lee (Google)

Current developments in digital cartography closely mirror the evolution of ‘citizen journalism’. The rise of social networking, micro-blogging, and mobile phones that double as video cameras enabled everyone to act as a journalist - either accidentally by being at the right place at the right moment - or by building up an audience and bypassing traditional media organisations.

In cartography, lay people are now actively participating in the creation of maps - a domain that has a long history of being tightly regulated and controlled. Today 'citizen cartographers’ add points of interest to public maps using the contribution features available on many online mapping sites.

There are numerous motivations for these contributions: some may want to show their neighbourhood in the best possible light; others may realize that their private annotations can be of use to a wider audience; and others yet may want to give visibility to areas they feel are not sufficiently represented.

These developments raise questions similar to those that were brought up with the rise of citizen journalism. Where does this leave the trained professionals, the cartographers? How can, in this new world, quality be assured - and more fundamentally how can it be defined?

A second question is how, as creators of systems that enable 'citizen cartography’, we communicate the unique qualities of this data, e.g. uncertainty or potential bias. Are there ways to help contributors avoid bad cartographic choices or automatically choose good ones for them?



Muki Haklay (University College London)


The understanding of the world through digital representation (digiplace) and VGI is frequently carried out with the assumption that these are valid, comprehensive and useful representations of the world. A common practice throughout the literature on these issues is to notice the digital divide, and while accepting it as a social and not natural phenomenon, either ignoring it for the rest of the analysis or expecting that it will solve itself over time through technological diffusion. The almost deterministic belief in technological diffusion absolves the analyst from fully confronting the political implication of the divide.

However, what VGI and social media analysis is revealing is that the digital divide is part of deep and growing social inequalities in Western societies. Worse still, digiplace amplifies and strengthen them.

In digiplace the wealthy, powerful, educated and mostly male elite is amplified through multiple digital representations. Moreover, the frequent decision of algorithm designers to privilege those who submit more media, and the level of 'digital cacophony’ that more active contributors are creating mean that a very small minority - arguably outliers in every analysis of normal distribution of human activities – are super empowered. Therefore, digiplace power relationships are arguably more polarised than outside cyberspace due to the lack of social check and balances. This makes the acceptance of the disproportional amount of information that these outliers produce as reality highly questionable.

The paper highlights the mass silencing and call for a more critical engagement with digiplace and VGI.



Jeremy Crampton (Kentucky)

In 2010 for the first time ever the USA disclosed its total intelligence budget: $80.1 billion. By contrast the Department of Homeland Security budget is $42.6 billion and the State Department $48.9 billion. Intelligence expenditures have more than doubled since 2001, with $3.5 billion being spent on Iraq intelligence alone. In response the intelligence community (IC) has increasingly exploited open source or unclassified intelligence (OSINT). It has done this in two ways. First, by extending its tradition of using scholarly scientific sources and experts, and second, by exploiting the internet and social media.

This paper examines these developments. On the one hand, we need to improve our understanding of the relationship between intelligence and science. Can scholarly work, traditionally open, co-exist with intelligence, traditionally closed? Will the IC become more transparent or science less so? Can scholars exploit “counter-intelligence” such as WikiLeaks?

On the other hand, what are the geographies of the intelligence landscape–the “alternative geography of the United States” (Priest 2010)? How is the IC exploiting social media and especially the geoweb for intelligence? Does this constitute an extension of surveillance into the everyday, an “infra-power” (Foucault 1977), and if so, to what extent is (geographic) information truly “volunteered”? To ask these questions is to recognize the extent of the information asymmetries of the modern security state: we still know very little about it even as it collects ever more information about us.