Volunteered geographic information

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Volunteered geographic information (VGI) is the harnessing of tools to create, assemble, and disseminate geographic data provided voluntarily by individuals.[1][2] VGI is a special case of the larger phenomenon known as user-generated content,[3] and allows people to have a more active role in activities such as urban planning and mapping.[4]


VGI can be seen as an extension of critical and participatory approaches to geographic information systems.[5] Some examples of this phenomenon are WikiMapia, OpenStreetMap, and Yandex.Map editor. These sites provide general base map information and allow users to create their own content by marking locations where various events occurred or certain features exist, but aren't already shown on the base map. Other examples include 311-style request systems[6] and 3D spatial technology.[7] Additionally, VGI commonly populates the content offered through location-based services such as the restaurant review site Yelp.[8]

One of the most important elements of VGI in contrast to standard user-generated content is the geographic element, and its relationship with collaborative mapping. The information volunteered by the individual is linked to a specific geographic region. While this is often taken to relate to elements of traditional cartography, VGI offers the possibility of including subjective, emotional, or other non-cartographic information.[9]

Geo-referenced data produced within services such as Trip Advisor, Flickr, Twitter,[10] Instagram[11] and Panoramio can be considered as VGI.

VGI has attracted concerns about data quality, and specifically about its credibility[12] and the possibility of vandalism.[13]

Criticism of the term[edit]

The term VGI has been criticized for poorly representing common variations in the data of OpenStreetMap and other sites: that some of the data is paid, in the case of CloudMade's ambassadors, or generated by another entity, as in US Census data.[14]

Because it is gathered by individuals with no formal training, the quality and reliability of VGI is a topic of much debate.[15] Some methods of quality assurance have been tested, namely, the use of control data to verify VGI accuracy.[16]

Effects on users[edit]

While there is concern over the authority of the data,[17] VGI may provide benefits beyond that of professional geographic information (PGI),[18][19] partly due to its ability to collect and present data not collected or curated by traditional/professional sources.[20][21][22] Additionally, VGI provides positive emotional value to users in functionality, satisfaction, social connection and ethics.[23][24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Goodchild, M.F. (2007). "Citizens as sensors: the world of volunteered geography". GeoJournal. 69 (4): 211–221. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/s10708-007-9111-y. S2CID 2105836.
  2. ^ Sangiambut, Suthee; Sieber, Renee (2016-07-12). "The V in VGI: Citizens or Civic Data Sources". Urban Planning. 1 (2): 141–154. doi:10.17645/up.v1i2.644.
  3. ^ Goodchild, M.F. (2007). "Citizens as sensors: the world of volunteered geography". GeoJournal. 69 (4): 211–221. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/s10708-007-9111-y. S2CID 2105836.
  4. ^ Steiniger, Stefan; Poorazizi, M. Ebrahim; Hunter, Andrew (2016-06-20). "Planning with Citizens: Implementation of an e-Planning Platform and Analysis of Research Needs". Urban Planning. 1 (2): 46–64. doi:10.17645/up.v1i2.607.
  5. ^ Elwood, S. (2008). "Volunteered Geographic Information: Future Research Directions Motivated by Critical, Participatory, and Feminist GIS". GeoJournal. 72 (3&4): 173–183. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/s10708-008-9186-0. S2CID 31556791.
  6. ^ Lu, Qing; Johnson, Peter (2016-06-07). "Characterizing New Channels of Communication: A Case Study of Municipal 311 Requests in Edmonton, Canada". Urban Planning. 1 (2): 18–31. doi:10.17645/up.v1i2.621. hdl:10012/11064.
  7. ^ Sabri, Soheil; Rajabifard, Abbas; Ho, Serene; Amirebrahimi, Sam; Bishop, Ian (2016-06-15). "Leveraging VGI Integrated with 3D Spatial Technology to Support Urban Intensification in Melbourne, Australia". Urban Planning. 1 (2): 32–48. doi:10.17645/up.v1i2.623.
  8. ^ Ricker, B.; Daniel, S.; Hedley, N. (2014). "Fuzzy Boundaries: Hybridizing Location-based Services, Volunteered Geographic Information and Geovisualization Literature". Geography Compass. 8 (7): 490–504. doi:10.1111/gec3.12138.
  9. ^ Parker, C.J., 2014. The Fundamentals of Human Factors Design for Volunteered Geographic Information, London, UK: Springer.
  10. ^ Resch, Bernd; Summa, Anja; Zeile, Peter; Strube, Michael (2016-07-05). "Citizen-Centric Urban Planning through Extracting Emotion Information from Twitter in an Interdisciplinary Space-Time-Linguistics Algorithm" (PDF). Urban Planning. 1 (2): 114–127. doi:10.17645/up.v1i2.617.
  11. ^ Guerrero, Paulina; Møller, Maja; Olafsson, Anton; Snizek, Bernhard (2016-06-06). "Revealing Cultural Ecosystem Services through Instagram Images: The Potential of Social Media Volunteered Geographic Information for Urban Green Infrastructure Planning and Governance". Urban Planning. 1 (2): 1–17. doi:10.17645/up.v1i2.609.
  12. ^ Flanagin, A. J.; Metzger, M. J. (2008). "The credibility of volunteered geographic information". GeoJournal. 72 (3–4): 137–148. doi:10.1007/s10708-008-9188-y. S2CID 15975229.
  13. ^ Ballatore, A. (2014). "Defacing the map: Cartographic vandalism in the digital commons". The Cartographic Journal. 51 (3): 214–224. arXiv:1404.3341. Bibcode:2014CartJ..51..214B. doi:10.1179/1743277414Y.0000000085. S2CID 1828882.
  14. ^ Gorman, Sean. "Why VGI is the Wrong Acronym". Fortius One. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  15. ^ Keen, A., 2007. The Cult of the Amateur, London, UK: Nicholas Brealey.
  16. ^ Comber, A.; See, L.; Fritz, S.; Van der Velde, M.; Perger, C.; Foody, G. (2013). "Using Control Data to Determine the Reliability of Volunteered Geographic Information about Land Cover". International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation. 23: 37–48. Bibcode:2013IJAEO..23...37C. doi:10.1016/j.jag.2012.11.002. hdl:2381/27729.
  17. ^ O'Brien, Jamie; Serra, Miguel; Hudson-Smith, Andrew; Psarra, Sophia; Hunter, Anthony; Zaltz-Austwick, Martin (2016-06-27). "Ensuring VGI Credibility in Urban-Community Data Generation: A Methodological Research Design". Urban Planning. 1 (2): 88–100. doi:10.17645/up.v1i2.620.
  18. ^ Parker, Christopher J. (2014). The Fundamentals of Human Factors Design for Volunteered Geographic Information. SpringerBriefs in Geography. SpringerBriefs in Geography. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-03503-1. ISBN 978-3-319-03502-4. ISSN 2211-4165. S2CID 59856775.
  19. ^ Brown, M.; et al. (2012). "Usability of Geographic Information; Current Challenges and Future Directions" (PDF). Applied Ergonomics. 44 (6): 855–865. doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2012.10.013. PMID 23177775. S2CID 26412254.
  20. ^ Parker, C.J.; et al. (2013). "Capturing Volunteered Information For Inclusive Service Design: Potential Benefits And Challenges". The Design Journal. 16 (2): 197–218. doi:10.2752/175630613x13584367984947. S2CID 110716823.
  21. ^ Parker, C.J.; May, A.J.; Mitchell, V. (2012). "The Role Of VGI And PGI In Supporting Outdoor Activities". Applied Ergonomics. 44 (6): 886–894. doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2012.04.013. PMID 22795180. S2CID 12918341.
  22. ^ May, A.; et al. (2014). "Evaluating a concept design of a crowd-sourced "mashup" providing ease-of-access information for people with limited mobility". Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies. 49 (1): 103–113. doi:10.1016/j.trc.2014.10.007.
  23. ^ Parker, C.J., May, A.J. & Mitchell, V., 2010. An Exploration of Volunteered Geographic Information Stakeholders. In M. Haklay, J. Morley, & H. Rahemtulla, eds. Proceedings of the GIS Research UK 18th Annual Conference. University College London: UCL, pp. 137–142. Available at: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/dspace-jspui/handle/2134/6152.
  24. ^ Harding, J. et al., 2009. Usable geographic information – what does it mean to users? In Proceedings of the AGI GeoCommunity '09 Conference. Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK: AGI GeoCommunity.