PhD studentship in collaboration with the Ordnance Survey – identifying systematic biases in crowdsourced geographic information

Deadline 31st August 2017

UCL Department of Geography and the Ordnance Survey are inviting applications for a PhD studentship to explore the internal systematic biases in crowd-sourced geographic information datasets (also known as Volunteered Geographic Information – VGI).

The studentship provides an exciting opportunity for a student to work with Ordnance Survey on understanding the use of crowd-sourced geographic information MH DSCN0571and potentially contributing to the use of such data sources by national mapping agencies. Ordnance Survey is an active partner in its sponsored research and offers students opportunities to work on-site and to contribute to workshops and innovation within the business. In addition, the student will be part of the Extreme Citizen Science group at UCL, which is one of the leading research groups in the area of crowdsourced geographic information and the study thereof.

For more information about the project, the studentship and details how to apply, please see here. or below:

 

Start Date: October 2017

Funding status: Applications are invited from UK and EU citizenship holders.

Funding Body: EPSRC and Ordnance Survey

Funding Details: The scholarship covers UCL student fees at the Home/EU rate and provides a stipend of £16,553 per annum tax free. Travel expenses and research equipment will also be provided to the successful candidate.

Project Description:

UCL Department of Geography and the Ordnance Survey are inviting applications for a PhD studentship to explore the internal systematic biases in crowd-sourced geographic information datasets (also known as Volunteered Geographic Information – VGI).

 

There has been a rapid increase in information gathered by people from all walks of life who are using connected devices with an ability to collect and share geographic information, such as GPS tracks, photographs with location information, or observations of the natural environment in citizen science projects. There is now a vast array of projects and activities that use this type of information, and each project has its own characteristics. Yet, it can be hypothesised that some of the characteristics of crowd-sourced geographic information will be systematically biased, and these biases differ between projects and data sources.

 

Crowd-sourced datasets will have some systematic biases that repeat across crowd-sourcing platforms. For example the impact of population density, business activity, and tourism on the places where data is available, or a weekend or seasonal bias of the temporal period of data collection. Others biases are project-specific – for example, some projects manage to attract more young men, and therefore places that are of interest to this demographic will be over-represented. One of the major obstacles that limit the use of such data sources is understanding and separating systematic and project-level biases and then developing statistical methods to evaluate their impact. In order to use such datasets to identify hidden features and patterns, there is a need to identify what are the relationships between a dataset and the world.

The aim of this research project, therefore, is to create a large collection of crowd-sourced GPS tracks and pedestrian trajectories, and use conflation techniques and advanced analytics to develop methodologies to identify and estimate the biases. Once this is done, the aim will be to identify hidden characteristics to be more confident about the patterns that are being observed.

Studentship Description

The studentship provides an exciting opportunity for a student to work with Ordnance Survey on understanding the use of crowd-sourced geographic information, and potentially contributing to the use of such data sources by national mapping agencies. Ordnance Survey is an active partner in its sponsored research and offers students opportunities to work on-site and to contribute to workshops and innovation within the business. In addition, the student will be part of the Extreme Citizen Science group at UCL, which is one of the leading research groups in the area of crowdsourced geographic information and the study thereof.

The project will run for four years and will be supervised by Prof Muki Haklay from UCL and Jeremy Morley from Ordnance Survey. Professor Muki Haklay, who is a professor in the UCL Department of Geography and who has a track record of research and publication relating to crowdsourced data management and quality. Jeremy Morley is the Chief Geospatial Scientist at Ordnance Survey, leading the long-term business research programme, and has research experience in crowd-sourced geographic information.

 Person Specification

Applicants should possess a strong bachelor’s degree (1st Class or 2:1 minimum) or Masters degree in Computer Science, Spatial statistics, Ecology, Geomatics, Geographic Information Science or a related discipline. The skills required to build the required database of case studies and the programming and analytical skills to assess biases and develop algorithms for their identification, are highly desirable. Candidates will ideally have some relevant previous research experience and should also have excellent communication and presentation skills.

The funding is provided for 4 years, and will involve spending time at the Ordnance Survey in Southampton.

Eligibility

Applications are invited from UK and EU citizens residing in UK. In particular, applicants must meet EPSRC eligibility and residency requirements found here:

http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/skills/studentships/help/eligibility/

Application Procedure

Applicants should send the following by e-mail to Judy Barrett (judy.barrett@ucl.ac.uk) and Prof Haklay (m.haklay@ucl.ac.uk):

  1. Cover letter, including a personal statement explaining your interest in the project.
  2. Examples of academic writing and outputs from past work (e.g. a dissertation or assignment)
  3. Academic transcripts
  4. A CV

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview during September 2017. Any incomplete applications will not be considered.

 

PPGIS 2017 – Poznan, Poland (Day 2) – Geodesign, applications and discussion

DSC_0082The second day of the PPGIS 2017 symposium (see Day 1 here) started with a session on METHODS AND TOOLS. The session opened with a keynote from Peter Nijkamp (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland) . The talk is titled “A big data dashboard architecture for computable intelligent city policy“. DSC_0106-1Peter noted that the way we talk about policy needs to differentiate between goals and implementations. From an early stage in his studies, he learned that when people come with ideas, there can be a whole list of goals for policy, and the tasks of the scientists is to consider how to implement it. In a linear system, the number of goals will be exactly the number of instruments which is an assumption of how to implement policy. In the Netherlands, they had a consultation about sustainable development led to over 65 goals but without any thought of implementation, and therefore the plan failed. Dreams have to be confronted with reality – the human capabilities to look at the multiplicity of goals is limited (e.g. the magical number of 7) – beyond 7 it is not possible to achieve goals. In a scientific system, you need to minimise things to lead to very few critical factors. Herbert Simon published a paper about the economics of complexity over 30 years ago – he uses the example of two watch repair people with one looking at all the details of the system and therefore failed, but the one that decomposes the system to sub-systems manage to complete the task in a more efficient way. The number of aspects in a planning system is limited, and there can be a highly complex system, it needs to be decomposed to few core sub-system (e.g. car dashboard as a demonstration). The view that is offering is a new urban world in which we need to notice all the challenges in an urban environment – connected city, climate adaptation etc. There are more and more discussions about smart cities over the past decade. We need to think what we mean by that – the European focus was on resources and quality of life. The core thing is about the use of ICT. The literature mixes input side and the output side. Smart Cities require decomposition – economy, people, governance, mobility etc. Naturaglly, there are different ranking for quality of life, green city – it’s all sort of indicators but these are not very helpful. Global City Power Index is probably the best of these axsand it’s from Japan. As the discussion about the smart city evolved, the Big Data challenges appeared – the question of how to organise them and manage them increased. Batty (2013) pointed that a city is not just a source of planning and activities, but also data. Are we going to find patterns in the data, or are we aiming to have a theory first. Nijkamp moved from just looking at the data, back to examine the theory and think what you would like to look at. This brings us to the C-I-TY Lab work. We need an evidence-based approach. Thinking about rational planning position about mission and position, and then take that into methodological aspects and operational aspects. The methodology is things like information cascade or hierarchical filters. The operational side is computable and numerical. The dashboard is a health check for a city or a region – are we still on course to achieve our goals. The dashboard is advisory and not a command and control system. The operational part of the city of Amsterdam, they look at job creation, regional and international export position, innovation and entrepreneurship, and geographic concentration. The idea is to compare to other cities and each bit also has comparison of previous years. In these systems, there are sub-systems and sub-sub-systems – focusing on each goal, but there is also an overall goal. The outcomes of the dashboard need to be interpreted within the wider ecological, social, and economic perspectives of the city – it requires expertise in interpretation. i-City is not only the digital power since putting it in the hand of untrained end users, will lead to a disaster. The system is assuming a stability in the planning of the goals and having long-term goals

DSC_0110Mapping web-application for digital participation in urban planning Jiří Pánek (Palacký University Olomouc, Olomouc, Czech Republic) demonstrating a system that is being developed in Olomouc in the Czech Republic and allow a subjective layer of emotional mapping of the city on top of the mapping. He uses the concept from Perkins (2009) about the emotional understanding of space and place. Also using Griffin and McQuoid (2012) noticing maps of emotions, maps to collect emotional data, and finally emotions about using maps. They thought about biometric measurements – e.g. BioMapping, extraction of user-generated content but also surveys. While it is useful to understand that emotional maps can be relevant here, but he is also suggesting the concept of GeoParticipation (Panek 2014). This can be seen as a subgroup of PPGIS, but it is also part of Participatory Planning Support System. The approach depends on crowdsourcing, and alsobeen deployed across the Czech Republic through a network of small towns that promotes sustainability, working with over 40 cities. He covered the leaning from failure. Using an analogue way (just papers and pen) didn’t work in terms of expressiveness but it was difficult to map it with a pencil. Also going to only digital way, with just allowing people to draw point line, polygons. Also tried doing only points, because heatmaps produce wrong realisation about the city. Also trying just point end without knowledge of who collected the information. So they decided to collect points that are associated with a person and background and interest. They combine paper and digital maps, and in the paper maps they have numbered pins that allow you to write details about who collected the information and they also have a digital tool that ask for details that are recorded with demographic details at the end. In Olomouc, they’ve done 2117 respondents – paper 481 and web 1636. They focused on 6 spatial questions – including feeling of safeness, walkability etc – they received 25760 points/lines/polygons with 4801 comments. There is an age distribution that is skewed to the young age, with half of participants students. and they have 45% with university degree and more students. The results allow to identify 5-10 hot-spots to analyse further: the city needed simplified details that they can used. Associated comments to specific terms to summarised them. Some aspects of the analysis show focus of people in their local area, where they are happy to comments, while other aspects that they don’t want – both in my backyard and not in my backyard. Lessons: points are sufficient for most of the case studies. Critical mass is really crucial – thousands of participants are important. Active engagement with local authorities is a must: without a wish for participatory planning then there is no point in it. Analysis of the comments can bring further data. The system is www.pocitovemapy.cz.

DSC_0114Geo-questionnaire – a tool to support the process of social participation Bogna Kietlińska (University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland), Robert Olszewski, Agnieszka Turek (Warsaw University of Technology, Warsaw, Poland) as a sociologist and art historian and collaborate with geographers and cartographers. Their geo-questionnaire include 154 participants and look at a recently revitalized street (Tumska street) and they wanted to explore the methodology. Plock is an old city, with a population of 126,000 and a university city with a lot of young people. The biggest problem on the street is that there are many obstacles that make the street difficult to navigate – it’s mostly shopping and services street and there are social problems: council flats, homelessness and lack of trust regarding the area. in Poland there are only 30% there is lack of spatial plans, and very little trust with other people (only 20%). They looking at open geoinformation, VGI, spatial data mining, text mining and working as a group that cut through science, art, and business. The questionnaire is providing something concrete to answer, allowing people to geolocate answers and make them less abstract, and it is suitable for participation in spatial planning. People could mark things that they like and dislike and also open questions to allow qualitative answers. People below 25 liked the street, people between 25-65  had mixed opinion, and older people completely didn’t like the changes at all. The limitations of the questionnaire are the issue of internet access and ability to use them and financial access – and therefore thinking about representativeness. there is also an issue that this is static – not taking into account our body in space. Her view is coming from the phenomenology of perception, and sensuous geography and urban sociology. Therefore need to an embodiment of experience and meaning. Emplacement creates certain association and understanding. We can think of ethnographic methods (walks and observations), design thinking with prototyping, gamification with storytelling in virtual reality. There is also thinking what storytelling. Also considering multi-agent systems and fuzzy modelling. The gamification they think about the playable city and creating prototypes for getting points for different contributions. Also created certain monsters: such as architect who don’t know how to create proper building that the participants need to work with. They are also considering an agent-based model of the city and also consider fuzzy logic model. They work in three places – they work with Warsaw “Mordor” to address traffic jam and gamification. Addressing the right questions within the system and understanding participants in order to be able to assess all the answers in a more qualitative and analytical way.

The Geo-Citizen participation framework: 15 years research, 3 years implementation – now serving societies worldwide Thomas Blaschke (University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria) In Salzburg, they’ve been doing all sort of projects from 1998, Thomas worked in different places in Africa: Mozambique and elsewhere. Also one of their researchers moved to Quito in Ecuador and set out many activities. The GeoCitizen framework is now well established and they are offering services in a company that was established about a year and a half ago from the university. They are offering services to small towns. There is also work of the quality of life and well-being is always relative to persons expectations and experiences. Collaborating with environmental psychologist to explore different aspects.DSC_0117

Karl focused on the geocitizen. The work is linked to Domingo Anjuasg of the Shuar Nationality from the Ecuadorian Amazon who received an award in the Amazon GIS initiative that was noted in last year Esri user conference. This is done with Richard  Resl. The technology of GIS is being used to be visible: because of competition over resources in an area. Richard was asked, 25 years ago, to teach the Shuar on how to create maps. There is a need to reach out to the world. Domingo also wanted to communicate their life plans to the world. The pilot of the Geocitizen was to allow people to discuss how they want to use their territory and how it should be used by people. This led to other cases in a more urban environment such as participatory infrastructure planning for Quito. They’ve done usability studies with marginalised communities to test the system, in Cali, Colombia – working with black communities with people without higher education and ask them to carry out some tasks – mapping tasks are difficult but other familiar tasks from the use of social media was familiar. There is need to know that spatial literacy is a major obstacle. They are considering how to implement serious games as a way to help people understand spatial information. An anecdote from their experience is that when surveyors carry out their work, people who were aiming to rob them of their tablets, turned into respondents once they understood what is it for. Interestingly they brought the methodology back to Austria and using it in a village. the basic concept is from local to multiple case studies. There is also organisational design: having a local leader and facilitators. They are using multiple skills: facilitators, people who are helping in understanding the GIS data, or to work with social media – training people and keeping them motivated. More lessons: neighbourhood scale, and focus on ideas and no complaints. Keep the tool simple but structured, Use local knowledge and transfer it and integrate tools, methods and stakeholders to make things integrated.

The second session was focusing COLLABORATIVE DESIGN

DSC_0124Interoperability and visualization as a support for mental maps to face differences in scale in Brazilian Geodesign processes Ana Clara Mourao Moura (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil) presenting for Camila Zynger on the Geodesign is Pampulha in Brazil – it’s an area that Oscar Niemeter started – it’s an area that is becoming famous but also there are challenges because of that. They use the framework of Geodesign, using a framework my Michalle Campagna helped with the process. They follow the process through different models and they’ve iterated through the process 3 times – first finding the basic information and running the model twice so they can ensure that it is done probably. They started with representation models in the first iteration. Significant work was required to create the data for example, in vegetation maps. They’ve classified maps to vulnerability and attractiveness – they included stakeholders representing developers, business, environmental NGOs and which were represented by different university expert. The first iteration didn’t yield useful results. In the 2nd iteration, an effort on youtube was dedicated to recruiting relevant people with local knowledge and in the third iteration they’ve used more printed maps – just using computers alone wasn’t working. As soon as people went to the computer, they left the paper, but this took 40 minutes of working with paper. They created a set of paper maps. The process included a lot of talking about the process and although peopel complained a lot about variables, maps etc. Actually, people wanted just three main variables. They went from Symbology can be more difficult and from using traffic light: that can be confusing and misinterpreted. They have also learned of the need to have focused question for discussion in terms of their outcome. The main contribution of the experiment was to build different futures for the place, to arrive at more specific question that will be put out for a discussion, but also in educating people with the implications of their choices. People understood things that they haven’t understood before.

DSC_0121Collaboration in planning: the Geodesign approach Michele Campagna, Chiara Cocco (University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy) the software for a new planning support system, it is important and helps in explaining the concepts beyond that. Starting from Arnstein 1969 ladder,  other models started to emerge specifically for technology – specifically Kingston 1998 and Carver in 2001. In particular Kingston model focusing participation in interest and agenda, assessing risk and making a decision. In public participation we need to thinks about groups – participants, communities, NGOs, and in participatory planning the planner role has changed: the role of an expert that is also act as a coordinator. The case that they discussed running a geodesign case of Cagliari metro area in Sardinia. They have a municipal plans, but also a need to collaborate with other nearby municipalities (17 of them) and they don’t have the culture of participation. They carried out a workshop over 2 days. They have thought about a forecast of 20 years ahead and thought about 10 possible areas of different systems and aspects. They’ve started from an analysis of regulations and plans and that allowed them to set those systems that will be the focus of the study. They split systems to aspects that they want to protect (e.g. ecology) and develop (e.g. smart industries). They carried out systems impacts model. They also integrated this cost models. The workshop gave training to about 30 people from the university but also professionals from across the area – they played the roles of different stakeholders. The workshop provide a good connection to allow heavy interactions. They also created a paper booklet. Asked the participants to work as experts group on each area of the 10 area. People were also set to different groups – and then started to create synthesis and measured some of the impacts and measured visually the impacts of the proposed changes – positive and negatives. They also analysed the compatibility between groups and started negotiations and evaluating different models. Carried out two synthesis and the final discussion was more tensions, and then they’ve ended with an agreed model. Planners, public administration, stakeholder and community members demonstrate that they can provide an input in different stages. The synthesis require the widest participation

DSC_0125Geodesign in Pampulha cultural and heritage urban area: visualization tools to orchestrate urban growth and dynamic transformations Ana Clara Mourao Moura (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil) This talk focus on a place where there is a historical place – cultural heritage in Quadrilatero Ferrifero – it’s an important place with urban growth, mining, cultural heritage and the beginning of the Brazilian culture. They were influenced by McHarg and Steinitz works. They created representation models and again need to produce data over two months. They’ve done that with 10 researchers from the federal university. This allows them to move to process models and evaluation model. They used existing and three levels of green for acceptable and yellow for not appropriate. They started evaluating alternatives. They had 6 teams including people from communities, DSC_0120NGOs, and they’ve set out groups that focus on change and another group that focuses on conservation. They discussed the different options. People were not linking reality to the maps and where more interacting with the system – people didn’t understand where they locate the diagrams and their meaning. To address that, they need to link reality and digital representation – used 3D visualisation and relied on Bishr 1998 and allow interoperability with other systems and then could create different visualisations. That allow new ways of understanding the designs. By having a 3D representation people could use maps better and deal with scale problems. Conclusions: geodesign is about alternative futures, and we need to share decisions and we need communication between people and between machines. We need to deal with reality, mental maps and digital representation.

First Life. A geo-social network to support participation in urban design Alessia Calafiore, Lucia Lupi (Univeristy of Torino, Torino, Italy)DSC_0126 Firstlife is a geo-social network to support participation in urban design and cities, It is about collecting georeferenced systems – places, groups, news and events and think about relationships among them and on a temporal scale. The map allows filtering by time or by groups. – There are multiple point-of-views – a school can be viewed from students, parents, teachers. Although they’ve started with points of interest, they now dealing with building blocks of the base-map – such as selecting the whole building and trying to deal with the geometry according to the scale. The platform is addressing different aspects and objectives: from issues such as regeneration. In that area, they collect data to document projects and initiatives and to follow-up and continuity. They try a project with 6 municipalities, 30 schools, 60 teachers and 70 classes. The project started with planning activities, they design the decision about the guidelines for mapping activities and then collecting information with proposals about sites for regeneration. Workshops were carried out with a different group and they had a problem with students you need to deal with the topic, and with teachers, you need to train on the use of the platforms. They used the process itself and mapped it in FirstLIfe (such as recording where training happened). The tours allow participants to select potential locations for regeneration. There are also focus group events to ensure that offline event are recorded and shared on the system. The follow up is to select proposals for recommendations on regeneration. The information is at regeneration.firstlife.org

DSC_0128Social participation in determining air quality in agglomerationsBeata Jasiewicz, Jarosław Jasiewicz, Waldemar Ratajczak, Alfred Stach, Maciej Stroiński (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland) collaboration between chemistry, and geosciences. The case in Poznan – city is not about the physical space but also for people. Air quality is of growing awareness in Poland – in Cracow, Poznan and other places. It is becoming an important political issue. There are also penalties for municipalities that are ignoring smog. There 300 alarms of passing the limits of PM10 300 times which is amongst the highest in Europe. There is a concentration of PM10/PM2.5 in Poznan and NO2 across the city with 18 exceedances a year and light on the side of SO2. There are many issues that affect the legal efficiency of addressing air quality at the regional level. There is a continued interest in air quality – in internet queries they see questions about NOx. However, some specialised terms are less searched online by the public: e.g. PM10 became a search term only in 2017, and other term are not searched at all. In Poznan got only 4 monitoring stations with only 2 continuous monitoring – people want to see warning being communicated to them. From the political point of view, the protection of the environment is centralised in the Ministry of Environmental Protection with state councils on nature conservation and another one of environment protection (experts in different areas). Also have general inspect of environment protection. They have a provincial governor (Voivode) who also have provincial inspect of environmental protection and other systems that are similar to the national system. At the provincial level, there are different mechanisms: public consultations, linking to NGOs, Public independent initiatives, and of course citizen independent actions and protest – but they also have independent citizens budget. At the city they have the city council and the mayor who have environmental functions. The regional council also have environmental functions with a provincial fund for environmental protection. Offering new ideas require negotiating with lots of organisation. They try to address the problem through Public Independent initiative at the city level – with the mayor and city council. To do that, They look at the opportunity of smart and digital city and consider sensors of air quality. Also what to consider forecasting of the conditions through emission data, topographical data and weather data. They started doing simulations of pollutants dispersion in the city and also consider modelling air movement in the street. They are now consider applications and services that will help people plan where they should go and for outdoor activities. They already go system that involved communities in Krakow, Wroclaw, and also looked at other systems.

The afternoon session focus on APPLICATION CASE STUDIES

Applications of Geoweb Methods in Urban Planning on the Examples of Selected Polish Cities Edyta Bąkowska, Marek Młodkowski, Łukasz Mikuła (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland) Edyta project aim to support public participation in urban planning and they notice that in the development in Poland the collecting proposal at the beginning of the proposal and in collecting opinions in the draft stage of the plan. DSC_0130-1This includes a public presentation of the plan, public discussion, and formal motions for alterations. This last 3 weeks. There are especially developing a geo-questionnaire tool to collect proposals, and a geo-discussion tool to collect opinions and public discussion. In the project, they’ve done 10 public consultation processes – 6 with geo-questionnaire, and 4 that include both tools. They so far had 7500 active participants and further 97 participants in 2 geo-discussion. The cases are in the Poznan agglomeration. The cases include land use plans, urban design and urban renewal, transportation, quality of life diagnosis. The area could be as small as 1 ha to 200,000 ha. In Rokietnica they had an interesting case – a fast growing area, doubling in people over 10 years. They prepare a demographic forecast that expected to double in size, and at the centre, there is a site of 16 ha that is derelict. They’ve used a structured process and carried out the questionnaire in December 2015, and the geo-discussion in May/June 2017. The process is a long one, in terms of transferring land-use plan to the system. The geo-questionnaire 435 participants, about 3.3% of the resident in the village with over-representation of 25-45. In the geo-discussion, 65 people participated, with 131 discussions and 51% are in the 25-34 age range. The planning result is that views from the geo-questionnaire have influenced the planning, but the planners decided to put in multi-family buildings while the participants suggested single family houses. Strong opinions about the suggested density were expressed in the geo-discussion. We need legal regulations to use tools but also to support their information – there is still too much of a check box attitude. There are problems with the use of information from participatory processes in action. What do we need  http://geoplan.amu.edu.pl/

DSC_0131An Integrated Approach to Public Participation in Urban Planning with Geoweb Methods Michał Czepkiewicz (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poznań, Poland; University of Iceland, Iceland), Piotr Jankowski (San Diego State University, San Diego, USA; Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poznań, Poland), Cezary Brudka (Poznań University of Economics and Business, Poznań, Poland) Cezary explored the ability to thinks about the urban planning phases and supporting the designers in what they need to integrate the tools into the process of urban planning. They are building on EAST” from Jankowski 2011.

They see the socio-institutional context of the participatory process, considering the participants and the technology: design consideration. They proposed several dimensions – include which planning approach is used – the use Kahila-Tani 2015 concepts of planner-centred and restricted information premise, so try to move towards more collaborative planning. They see the need to consider the diagnosis of the current situation. They identify the tools can match knowledge and flow of knowledge between participants – e.g. geo-questionnaire that provide information from participant to the convener, but not support communication between participants. They also pay attention to the linkage and transfer of information – is it about just informing? is it about fuller communication? There are cases that feedback is not even captured with the tool. They have a case of a bottom-up approach by an NGO in Poznan and it is mostly about initiation – generating ideas about what the city needs to do. Using geo-questionnaire provide one-way communication but then a step of sharing information. In another case, they elicit local knowledge and preferences.  We can also think about other stages, so as the need to inform the public about the plan. In the Polish case, they need to move from the rationalistic planning focus toward communicative and evidence based.

DSC_0138Volunteered Geographic Information for planning: the case for „emergent” cycle lanes in Cities Antonello Romano, Stefano Picascia (University of Siena, Siena, Italy) Stefano looking at ways of integrating VGI into the planning process. They are looking at VGI and assuming wisdom of crowds, and specifically looking at Strava data that is coming from bicycle users. The data are sold for profit – a wealth of data that can be useful. They explore the options of using this data to help planning of cycle routes – identifying routes where a high number of trips are taken. Arguably the network is emerging from multiple cyclists – also need to consider why these routes emerge. To understand the data there is a need to use infrastructure data such as planning cycling network, but also need to combine topography, information about incidents and accidents and other bits of information to be able to explain the patterns. Trips that are on the cycling network and those that outside help to reveal the usability of the current cycling network. For example, roundabouts and places where the cycle network do not continue. Some ideas in Rome do not match the data and there are questions if we should use Strava data. There are problems with this data: data quality and accuracy, demographic profile, price, ethics. Elderly cyclists don’t use apps. There is an issue of data that is valuable for society, but companies are locked by the company and you can’t gain access to it.

 

The final part of the workshop was structured discussion around seven points:

first, understanding ICT by people belonging to different groups – concern about digital exclusion? The first point, there is an increasing engagement with technology, but because of the persistence of the age distribution we seem to have an issue with people at an older age, and therefore need to have strategies for inclusion. Another participant pointed about collaboration between millennials and older people as one way to address this. On the other hand, pointed that older groups to acquire and learn are lower than younger people so need to consider how AI assistant will be involved. Where we are right now, we need to be aware of the ever-changing technology need to consider how it may be narrow with future technology. There are natural problems. There are also about issues and sometimes the issue is the one that leads to certain focus.

Secondly, experiences concerning to legal regulations in the context of participation: in urban planning, there are regulations in Italy that open the option but don’t mandate it. Need to be aware of implications to different bodies. In Ireland, data protection and ownership are coming as a major concern for organisations about what is collected and where. In Brazil, there is a law that requires participation in planning, but what type of participation and which level of participation is not being set. In the USA, there is a very much federal system that allows independent bodies to collaborate – counties do have a lot of power, and cities do their own planning. Based on the ideas of federalism they do things their own way. Some cities are more participatory due to their culture, while other are not trying to engage people. Poland seeing growth in soft informal planning – pre-planning process that open opportunities for planning.

Third, what are necessary conditions for cooperation between city planners and public participation representatives – in Italy it is impacted by the wider atmosphere, with planners being limited by the current politics and guidance. In the Polish system, the city planners are also limited within their focus and remit – they are not asked to do public participation. Other experiences in Poland point that planners have specific needs for information and it requires a top-down process to allow for public participation. There is a need for a process that allows for symmetric information exchange. In Brazil, they want to be the authors of the designers of the city and they somewhat resist to be the decoder of collective values. There are also restrictions in terms of the role and what is expected from the private or the public planner. For example, if the private planner office does not want to expose the information to the public, the public planner is limited in what they can do. There are situations in which the public and private actors should work together to engage the public.

The fourth, point looked at popularity of new methods, this is different in locations according to their legal and organisational structures.

Fifth, the role of social movements in shaping of liveability in cities. Social movement make problems visible and showing problems – but they then require the experts to be involved in setting it out. They have a role to highlight issue, and because planning and city management is longer time scale, the relationships are more complex.

Sixth, regarding new methods and tools that will be most useful: visualisation is important for communication. Techniques (e.g. Space Syntax) also old tools of sketching and also existing methodologies. Augmented Reality. DIY science and data collection will come along, and in social science there are questions about using existing data sets and collaborating systems and the used of stuff that is already out there.

Finally, also the issues of linkage between information from participatory methods and tools and choices made by decision makers – and constraints on the use of information accessible and usable. Getting access to data is a problem inside organisations and sometimes there can be changing the way people structure processes. Also, wide scale political processes and general atmosphere communicate to the public and the planners if the is more scope for participation and if it will take in seriously or not.

PPGIS 2017 – Poznan, Poland (Day 1) – different notions and tools of public participation GIS

These notes are from the workshop Modern Methods and Tools for Public Participation in Urban Planning 2017, held in Palac Obrzycko near Poznan, Poland on 22nd and 23rd June 2017 – the outline of the workshop stated “Researchers and practitioners of urban planning have had a variable interest in developing and applying methods of public participation since the 1970s… The interest in methods accelerated in the mid-1990s, accompanied by the developments in public participation geographic information systems (PPGIS) and participatory GIS (PGIS). The arrival of Web 2.0 in the 2000s and improvements in geographic information technologies resulted in the proliferation of geographically related tools and Web services (Geoweb) for individuals and groups. Developments in P/PGIS, volunteered geographic information (VGI), and Geoweb have been recently paralleled by the growth of holistic approach to public participation in urban planning exemplified by Geodesign – a process relying on geographic digital methods and tools for integrating analysis, evaluation, design and public involvement in urban and regional planning. Despite much interest in participatory methods rooted in mapping and visualisation of geographical data, there has not been a gathering of scholars in P/PGIS, VGI, Geoweb, and Geodesign sharing their research and learning from one another.” (see ppgis2017.pl)

Piotr Jankowski opened the meeting explaining the background of the symposium explaining a local project at the Adam Mickiewicz University on participatory GIS and geodesign in Poznan. The workshop is mostly by invitation and was set to allow for detailed discussions. The purpose is to have a discussion on the themes of participatory GIS, citizen science, VGI, Geodesign and urban planning.

Marketta Kyttä (Aalto University, Aalto, Finland) – gave the keynote address to start the workshop. Marketta talked about 10 years of public participation GIS research and practice in Finland, reflecting on the experience since 2000. From a background in environment psychology, with a PhD in architecture, had an interest in the human side. There are claims that tacit and experiential knowledge cannot be integrated into design and practice. In the 1990s, she felt that environmental psychology is focusing on the person and how they feel, but forgotten about the environment. She believes that the interaction between the environment and the person is generating experiences, and there were few approaches to thinking about it – there are precedents from Wohlwill in 1973, pointing the environment is not in the head and others. Her work got into place-based, “softGIS” – as psychologist heard about it and wanted to study about human behaviour and experience over the physical environment. Thinking about how to link perceptions and emotions and the different ways of understanding space with a physical location. The new methodology was started in 2003 and the first prototype was developed in 2005, but the technology was weak. They then progressed to SoftGIS survey tools which are more robust technically, but each survey requires a lot of investment. This is now evolved to maptionnaire service that allows using these in a more structured way since 2015. They have done projects in Japan, or in USA, or in Aalto University campus, and many other places. Through the literature, she discovered relevant areas which she was not aware of at the beginning – PGIS, PPGIS, Citizen Science, VGI. The work that they’ve been doing is the nearest to Greg Brown – conceptually and structurally there are many similarities in the methodology. She sees the person-environmental relationship and participatory planning are in yin-yang relationship – they contribute to each other. They have looked at social sustainability, mobility, environmental memories and more. Across different groups – from children to elderly. Also at different scales, various planning stages, and various planning approaches. They have done over 70 research project that used place-based research ad over 150 participatory planning projects. Cases that were analysed between 2013-2017 show majority of participatory cases in planning – over 46% and 27% in research. The personal relationship to participatory planning – on how the effort of participatory planning is for few people to show up and lots of time have negative views. There are some people who are activists – but not all of us this way. There need to be an additional way of engaging people for people who are less assertive. The Finnish law mandated participatory planning since 2000, but things haven’t changed over the night and a slow process: only a handful of people participate, participation tool late, non-influential participation, concentration on resisting changes, data that have been collected is invisible, and the process is demanding process for the organisers and the participants. The experience of using PPGIS as a crowdsourcing tool in urban planning – a questionnaire tool. The pros are data volume, high quality and usable knowledge, foster collaborative participation. The cons are issues of digitalisation, limitations in the digital process, data quality, and practices in planning regarding the use of the information.

Data volume online allows collecting large datasets with little effort, and facilitating inclusiveness – wider groups of people that can be reached (2100 respondent about water in Helsinki), the representativeness look good across classes – the impact of level of education, but generally it can be argued that it is a representative group. There is also an ability to provide the same tool in different languages and reach different groups, and children and young people with appropriate tools. Children can give good quality data. It is also an easier way to reach a wider group of participants – getting 3750 people responding to get Helsinki Master Plan survey, with 33,000 place marking.

The second point that the data is high quality and usable knowledge – the methodology fosters individual participation – Kahila-Tani (2016) pointed about individual participation and collective participation issues – an ability to maintain the diversity of opinion, also independence, decentralisation, but it also requires aggregation. The maps allow a new type of knowledge in a visible format – such as the location of new building and green areas. Also allowing to do different analysis of green structures, and finding out about people home and which places they notice and use buffering to calculate densities around it. Using urban structure, behavioural and experiential factors, and then linked it to health and wellbeing. In the city centre, they found one set of a link: density increases the perceived environmental quality if it brings the everyday services closer. In the suburbs, the closer the services were, the lower the perceived environmental quality – why is this happening in the suburbs is a question. PPGIS allows for exploring different context.

Can we foster deep collaboration? The Maptionnaire tool allows the creation of a geographical survey with the survey. Asking many questions to participants. Reaching out to participants can be done by a representative sample and trying to reach them, sometimes offline, or more opportunistic approaches of using publicity online, or through a specific event. In a public-participation support system (Kahila-Tani 2016) considered the different stages that have participation potential, and the initiation phase is important. This was indeed in many cases the way Maptionnaire is being used. Is the participation influential in terms of impacting on the decision process. In the Helsinki master plan it was possible to see the impact of suggestion as the plan was published on a grid, and it was possible to compare it to the public survey and it shows that about 25% of the areas that people want to protect are threatened by the plan. PPGIS can be also integrated into existing systems, which is demonstrated in the City of Lahti.

The issues in PPGIS include first, use of digitisation: digital divide, technology stress that exists among older participants – examining people over 80s, addressing the problems in the redesign of the application.

Second, it is important to see the PPGIS in addition to deliberative processes that are linked to PPGIS data – people pointed that the PPGIS data is wrong as it didn’t represent their opinion.

Third, there are issues of data quality: representatives, cherry picking, user privacy, manipulation, and skills to use the data. The Helsinki data is over-represented in 20-40 year old. Because the issue is about the opportunity to participate and not only about representativeness. It is possible to compare the representative sample with the wider response. All sort of arguments: other age groups are represented in other processes, or that they will be impacted by the programme, etc.

Fourth, there are also ineffective planning practices: lack of willingness to allow participation or influence, challenges in integrating the data into practice, and there is also an issue that surveys are a continuation of top-down participation. There is a demand towards co-created surveys and co-analysed data sets. There aren’t examples for this and that is a future challenge. PPGIS can be used as a therapeutic participatory device

There are pros and cons – where is the balance. We can think about smart participation using social media – Foursquare, Instagram, OpenStreetMap or Twitter – we need to think about how to make them work. Looking ah how high-quality GIS knowledge from people can support smart, friendly urban planning.

PAPER SESSION I: CONCEPTS AND FRAMEWORKS

14:30 – 15:00: Examining the values that are embedded in the processes and technologies of participatory GIS.
Muki Haklay (University College London, London, Great Britain) My talk started with noting that a persistent question about participatory methodologies that rely on technologies, such as public participation geographic information systems (PPGIS), is how to integrate values, such as inclusiveness of all the people that are impacted by a decision, or identifying options that are popular with the majority but acceptable to the minority, within technologically focused projects. Moreover, technologies do not operate by themselves – they are embedded in organisational, political, and social processes that set how they are used, who can use them, and in what context. Therefore, we should explore where the values reside? Two factors obscure our view: The misleading conceptualisation that technologies are value free, and can be used for good or for bad – which put all the weight on the process and ignores the way in which any technology allows only certain actions to be taken. Another popular view of technology conceptualisation is to emphasise their advantages (upside) and ignore their limitations. If we move beyond these, and other “common sense” views of technologies, we can notice how process and technology intertwine.

We can, therefore, look at the way the process/technology reinforce and limit each other, and the way that the values are integrated and influence them. With this analysis, we can also consider how technological development can explicitly include considerations of values, and be philosophically, politically, and social theory informed. We need to consider the roles, skills, and knowledge of the people that are involved in each part of the process – from community facilitation to software development.

The talk draws on the experience of developing participatory geographic information technologies over the past 20 years and will suggest future directions for values-based participatory technology development.

Formal ontologies to support participatory urban planning through the prism of roles theory
Alessia Calafiore (University of Torino, Torino, Italy) – covering aspects of Firstlife – which is about collecting knowledge through crowdsourcing and then support for informed urban planning. The aim is collecting information about places and representation in place. A practical concern in GIS is to make explicit the assumption about daily special experiences. How is place specially constructed? People behaviour is many times unexpected – places that can be used to unexpected use. In an ontological analysis, she tries to represent spatially located social practices. Urban artefacts are interacting with people through social practices. She’s developed her concept on the DOLCE ontological framework. She went on to define urban artefacts – including design and normative constraints and look at some of the aspects that are rigid. A social place is a non-rigid aspect of a space and she’s using social roles theory for this aspect. She defines social practices with predicate logic

G-ICT and creative thinking in the context of urban resilience
Zorica Nedovic-Budic, Aoife Corcoran (University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland) – talking about the role of geographical ICT in creative thinking on urban planning, based on the result of TURAS project (turas-cities.org). She specifically looking on several projects: reusing Dublin, Meadows Timeline, and TwitterGI. She specifically looking a the way these ICT tools can be used to improve resilience. Addressing issues such as flooding, lack of green infrastructure in inner cities or use of empty spaces. The task for cities is to move to more resilience stage. The city needs to build capacity to address change. Social-ecological resilience is the ability to adapt and transform as results of a change. Her three cases looked at empty places in Dublin, community history and interventions in the Meadows Communities in Nottingham and supporting researchers on urban resilience at UEL in London. In each case, she carried out a focus group with different stakeholders and carried out different tests. In Dublin, ReusingDublin provided 400 entries about different locations that can be used, and in Nottingham, a geographic timeline about the history of an estate.  In London, it was information from Twitter that can assist researchers. Also carried out a serious of events. There is different evident that some of the technologies helped in creating new ideas, but she actually realised that a co-creation process is quite central. The data alone is not enough to generate new ideas but require a more deliberative project. The mutability of technology is important – Reusing Dublin is being used by a homeless charity to raise awareness and collect data that can be used to lead to a change. Citizens + Data = Change – with data, awareness and joint effort. She is now setting the up the space engagers social enterprise to address some spatial issues in different communities in Ireland. Geospatial technologies – by having people engaged for a short time will allow people to get involved in coming up with ideas or contribute to wider social goods. 

Engineering for the local systems of the social participation architecture
Michał Dzięcielski (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland), Maciej Kamiński, Maciej Szarejko (Urban Cybernetics Center, Wrocław University of Technology, Worcław, Poland), Sara Zielińska (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland) – thinking about using ERP tool, lean management to manage a city, but also to have a participatory element. To manage a city, you can’t assume formal order to citizens, but we can’t give complete freedom and anarchy in a city – we’re looking for a golden mean. Suggesting to use Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) that were designed for big companies, so want to have a role for public participation with the outcome of improving the quality of life. The idea of an ERP for a city is the ability to improve city foresight and allow the citizens to show their ideas and how they’ll impact the city. The idea is also to grab ideas from lean management – ensuring that we give citizens the information that will support their needs, and from participatory budgeting, to allow people to create and fund their projects. So their suggested architecture – people who come with ideas, which are going to the participatory projects support office in the city. The PPSO can explore, by using an ERP which projects would result in unwanted outcomes and not improve the quality of life – criteria against which assess projects. Using ERP and lean management by the project support office can help in carrying out such activities in the city.

The afternoon ended with TOOL DEMOS the provided an overview and demonstration of different PPGIS tools.

First GeoCitizen Platform by Karl Atzmanstorfer, Thomas Blaschke (University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria) the GeoCitizen Platform – based on 15 years of work that was done in Salzburg. The platform, geocitizen.org – transparent platform for participatory community management with a structured process for communication between all stakeholders and assist decision making processes. They have smartphone interface, web platform, and a management dashboard. The methodology: browsing, collecting geographical information, sharing ideas which are geotagged, then discussing spatial content, rating proposals, and monitoring implementation. The stages that are going through a clear design that show which stage is progressing and aiming to include as many stakeholders as relevant to the process.

The second demonstration was of Geodiscussion Dariusz Walczak (Recoded, Poznań, Poland), Marek Młodkowski (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland) – the project is about supporting public participation in urban planning through GIS. They demonstrate a case study in a suburban location near Poznan and the discussion was about local urban development plan. The Geo-discussion can be viewed on the web and on a mobile phone. They had 65 users, 131 discussion threads and 575 further activities. The Google analytics show that it’s 25-34 people and a bit more male, mostly using the desktop version. Each thread of the discussion has a unique URL and can be used to direct someone to a specific comment. There are details or people, date, and other bits of information. The administrator point of view can see the threads and content of comments and can hide some comments. The process of setting the system include simplification of the technical document to short prompts that can be open for discussion is an important part of the system. The system includes many considerations on how to address the specific aspects of discussions in a way that produces actionable information for planners.

The final demonstration was of Geodesign by Michele Campagna, Chiara Cocco (University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy) showing their Geodesign system. The origin of the system from work that was done by Carl Steinitz in CASA at UCL. There are many planning styles with different outcomes and methodologies. In design together we need planners and participants from the public to deal with information – so we need simple interfaces. The geodesign framework is the core of Steinitz model of Geodesign. We start with representation models and process models – and then have evaluation models. There is a cycle of data-information-knowledge in the assessment phase and the intervention stage. The demonstration of the Geodesign Hub is a web application that is very long and showing suitability maps that are coloured in a consistent way and the input data can be done either by experts or in a collaborative way. The participants are asked to do diagrams to describe the ideas by different participants. People can copy diagrams of different people and adjust them. Diagrams can be created by experts and by general participants. People can mark the ones that they like especially. Then it is possible to create a synthesis. They can then also check and see the different modelling of different activities and their costs. The hub is supporting the process of calculating costs, comparing options and assessing impacts. https://www.geodesignhub.com/

Into the night – training day on citizen science

dscn1936Last December, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) awarded funding to UCL Extreme Citizen Science group and Earthwatch as part of their investment in public engagement. The projects are all short – they start from January to March and included public engagement and training to early career researchers.

“Into the Night” highlights the importance of light pollution, a growing environmental stressor to both wildlife and humans, through collaborative and co-designed citizen science research. The project aims to increase awareness of this issue through two public workshops exploring the potential of two citizen science focal points – glow-worms and human wellbeing – explicitly linking ecological and human impacts. The project will culminate with a set of public activities (pilot data collection and educational) to coincide with Earth Hour (25.03.2017).

The project aims to build public engagement capacity through PhD internships with Earthwatch (Europe), CEH, Natural England and UCL, and forms a dedicated training day on the design and implementation of citizen science for 50 early-career researchers and PhD students.

The project is led by UCL (in collaboration with North Carolina State University – NCSU) and Earthwatch, bringing together leading research and practice in citizen science. It is the result of two co-design workshops, with over 30 participants from environmental science, social science, public health, National Parks, and NGOs. Based on this preparatory work, and with active training of early career researchers, we will run two focused workshops which will take place in dark sky reserves. These workshops will focus on two preliminary ideas for citizen science projects: a countrywide survey of glow-worms and the impact of artificial light on their activities, and the influence of lightscapes and dark green spaces on human wellbeing while balancing safety and concerns.

The two projects will generate public awareness and provide the public with opportunities to have debate and dialogue on the subject, as well as involvement in data collection and analysis. Results will be shared through social and traditional media. The outcome will advance ideas for a national citizen science project, which UCL and Earthwatch will take forward.

The training day run in Oxford on the 2nd February and during the day I gave two 45 minutes sessions. First, I provided an introduction to the field of citizen science, how to design a project, and how to evaluate such a project.

The session provided a brief overview of the types of citizen science that are relevant in addressing environmental challenges. We looked at classifications of citizen science projects, explore their potential goals, the process of recruitment and retention as well as the need to start project evaluation from an early stage. At the end the participants engage in a short exercise to consider how these elements can be used in the design of a citizen science project.

The second talk focused on technology.

The talk aim was described as follows: Current citizen science seems effortless…just download an app and start using it. However, there are many technical aspects that are necessary to make a citizen science project work. This session provided an overview of all the technical elements that are required – from the process of designing an app, to designing and managing a back-end system, to testing the system end to end before deployment. Again, at the end of the session, a short exercise considered the design of an app for a citizen science project that addresses light pollution.

 

Public Participation GIS and Participatory GIS in the Era of GeoWeb – editorial for a special issue

As part of the AAG 2015 conference, Bandana Kar, Rina Ghose, Renee Sieber and I organised a set of sessions on Public Participation GIS – you can read the summary here. After the conference, we’ve organised a special issue of the Cartographic Journal (thanks to Alex Kent, the journal editor) dedicated to current perspectives of public participation GIS (PPGIS) and participatory GIS (PGIS).

The process of organising a special issue is quite involved – not all the papers that start the journey managed to finish, and even at the last point, 2 papers that are part of the special issue will appear in the next issue of the journal due to physical limitations and the number of pages that appear in each issue!

Working with an editorial group across the US, Canada, and the UK was also a challenge, especially as we were all busy, as usual. Bandana Kar kept us going and because of her continued efforts and encouragement, the special issue was evolving. So it’s only right that she is the lead author of the editorial piece. Our editorial points to the evolution of PPGIS and the need to understand how it is shaped up in the era of web-based mapping and rapid increase in the use of mobile technologies. The papers in the special issue (you can find them here) are addressing this evolving landscape and are all worth reading. We finish our editorial with the following statement:

‘In this sea of changing tools and technologies it appears that P/PGIS may be competing with other approaches and terminologies. At its core many of the new projects remain mission-driven, are led by local residents, and requires generation of data and knowledge to resolve a specific problem. The data generated through platforms old and new still suffer from lack of interoperability and data quality issues. Analytics may have been improved since the days of the command-line but still require considerable expertise; moreover, evidence-based policy, especially from the non-credentialled, must have entree into politics. Moving forward, researchers and practitioners should focus on not answering the place of P/PGIS amid new technologies and approaches but instead examine the extent to which new participatory technologies are effective in integrating local, scientific and personal knowledge in resolving political decisions and societal issues of interest to local communities.’

The paper is available here and if you don’t have access to the journal, email me and I’ll send you a copy.

 

A Shared Perspective for PGIS and VGI – new paper

Part of the special issue on Public Participation GIS that was published in The Cartographic Journal, was a paper that was led by Jeroen Verplanke (ITC). This paper goes back to the workshop on participatory GIS in 2013, that was the leaving event for Dr Mike McCall in ITC, after which he continue to work in UNAM, Mexico.

Since the symposium in June 2013, we developed the paper, trying to find the path and linkage between the area of Participatory GIS (the variety of Public Participation GIS in development context) and the crowdsourced world of Volunteered Geographic Information.

The paper abstract explains its aims:

“This paper reviews persistent principles of participation processes. On the basis of a review of recent interrogations of the (Public) Participatory Geographic Information Systems (P)PGIS and Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) approaches, a summary of five prevailing principles in participatory spatial information handling is presented. We investigate these five principles that are common to (P)PGIS and VGI on the basis of a framework of two dimensions that govern the participatory use of spatial information from the perspective of people and society. This framework is presented as a shared perspective of (P)PGIS and VGI and illustrates that, although both share many of these same principles, the ways in which these principles are approached are highly diverse. The paper ends with a future outlook in which we discuss the inter-connected memes of potential technological futures, the signification of localness in ‘local spatial knowledge’, and the ramifications of ethical tenets by which PGIS and VGI can strengthen each other as two sides of the same coin.”

We finish the paper with the following observations: “With the unprecedented growth of data from sensors, including human sensors working through VGI, the main obstacles shaping the access and use of Local Spatial Knowledge (LSK) are the ethics of participatory practices. Greater access to, and supply of, VGI will not improve the depth of knowledge or insight into local contexts, and not necessarily, even the breadth of inputs. It might instead bias LSK identification and flows towards the most active and connected members in the community. This is already a recognized issue with PGIS and other participatory processes which are open to ‘elite capture’ and manipulation. Another challenge to the PGIS ‘slow, small, and intense’ approach comes from the ubiquity of cheap sensors; there is a concern that only evidence backed up with instrumental information (e.g. bodycams providing images with GPS and time stamp) will be considered suitable by higher authority decision-makers. Ethical facilitation is needed to guide the ownership and confidentiality of LSK in a connected world where this knowledge and the metadata of its distribution are increasingly valued (only) for their direct marketing potential. PGIS offers rich, culturally sensitive and situated LSK, and it is essential to maintain the value of this knowledge against the challenge of big data (VGI) being treated as more ‘scientific’.

The paper itself can be accessed here (it should become open access soon) and if you don’t have access, email me and I’ll send you a copy.

The Potential of Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) in Future Transport Systems

dsc01541An aspect of collaborative projects is that they start slowly, and as they become effective and productive, they reached their end! The COST Energic (European Network for Research into Geographic Information Crowdsourcing) led to many useful activities, with some of them leading to academic papers. From COST Energic, we’ve got the European Handbook on Crowdsourced Geographic Information, a paper on VGI quality assessment methods, and more.

One outcome came out from the close collaboration around the summer schools that were organised by the network. Prof Cristina Capineri was the chair of the COST network, and also the organiser of summer schools in Fiesole, near Florence. Prof Maria Attard organised the other summer school of the action, at the University of Malta. Based on our close working relationships (though Maria and I know each other since our PhD studies in CASA) we started working on a joint paper. Maria specialises in transport geography, so the support from COST Energic was a reason to consider how VGI will play out in future transport systems. The paper was published in the journal Urban Planning and the abstract reads:

“As transport systems are pushed to the limits in many cities, governments have tried to resolve problems of traffic and congestion by increasing capacity. Miller (2013) contends the need to identify new capabilities (instead of capacity) of the transport infrastructure in order to increase efficiency without extending the physical infrastructure. Kenyon and Lyons (2003) identified integrated traveller information as a facilitator for better transport decisions. Today, with further developments in the use of geographic information systems (GIS) and a greater disposition by the public to provide volunteered geographic information (VGI), the potential of information is not only integrated across modes but also user-generated, real-time and available on smartphones anywhere. This geographic information plays today an important role in sectors such as politics, businesses and entertainment, and presumably this would extend to transport in revealing people’s preferences for mobility and therefore be useful for decision-making. The widespread availability of networks and smartphones offer new opportunities supported by apps and crowdsourcing through social media such as the successful traffic and navigation app Waze, car sharing programmes such as Zipcar, and ride sharing systems such as Uber. This study aims to develop insights into the potential of governments to use voluntary (crowdsourced) geographic information effectively to achieve sustainable mobility. A review of the literature and existing technology informs this article. Further research into this area is identified and presented at the end of the paper.”

The paper is open, and can be found here