Crowdsourced: navigation & location-based services

toyosemite-mapOnce you switch the smartphone off from email and social media network, you can notice better when and how you’re crowdsourced. By this, I mean that use of applications to contribute data is sometimes clearer as the phone becomes less of communication technology and more of information technology (while most of the time it is an information and communication mixed together).

During my last year summer break, while switching off, I was able to notice three types of crowdsourcing that were happening as I was mostly using my phone for tourism:  the set of applications that I used during the period was mostly Google Maps, Waze, and Sygic for navigation (Sygic is an offline satnav app that uses local storage, especially useful as you go away from signal – as in the case of travelling to Yosemite above). I also used TripAdvisor to find restaurants or plan visits, and in a tour of Hollywood, we’ve downloaded a guided tour by “PocketGuide Audio Travel Guide”. There were also the usual searches on Google to find the locations of swimming pools, train schedule, boat tours and all the other things that you do when you’re travelling.

The first type of being crowdsourced that I knew was there but I couldn’t notice was with every action that I’ve done with the phone. Searches, visiting websites and all the other things that I’ve done as long as the phone was on. I know that they are there, but I have no idea who is collecting the traces – I can be quite certain that the phone company and Google were getting information, but I can’t tell for sure – so that’s hidden crowdsourcing.

The second type is being passively crowdsourced – I know that it happened, and I can sotosanjose-lastdayrt of guess what information is being recorded, but I didn’t need any action to make it happen. Checking the map on the way back to the airport at the end of the journey, show how geolocated images and information are being put on the map. Google Maps assume that I visited known locations, mostly commercials, along the way. It was especially funny to stay in a suburban place that happened to be the registered address of a business, and every time we went to it, Google insisted that we’re visiting the business (which doesn’t physically exist in the place). At least with this passive crowdsourcing, I am knowingly contributing information – and since I’m benefiting from the navigation guidance of Google Maps as I drive along, it is a known transaction (regardless of power relationship and fairness). screenshot_20160808-154540

the third and final type of process was active crowdsourcing. This was when I was aware of what I’m contributing, to which system, and more or less how. When I provided an image to Google Local Guides  I knew that it will be shared (I am though, hugely surprised how many times it was viewed, but I’ll write about Local Guides in a different post). I was also actively contributing to TripAdvisor about some place near Venice Beach. A certain surprise also came from Waze, which, in a day of experiencing Los Angeles famous traffic, provided me with a message that ‘I’m one of the top contributors on this route’ after 3 reports. Of course, I can’t tell if this message is real, but if 3 reports are enough to make you a top contributor, the number of reporting participants must be very low.

Few other observations: it was interesting to see how embedded is the consideration that you will be online all the time – Google Maps suggested to download a route when they had information that part of the journey will not be covered by mobile signal, but the application didn’t behave well with offline data (Sygic did). Both Waze and Google Maps behaved very erratically when I passed a blocked slip road and didn’t follow their navigation guidance. For quite a distance, they continue to suggest that I turn around and use the blocked road.

The other aspect that was very apparent is the built in methodological individualism of all these apps – even though I was only with my partner, we found the PocketGuide Audio Travel Guide awkward to use – we wanted to experience the tour (which is interesting) together. The app is just difficult to use when you try to go with other people and discuss things together. This is partially how phones are thought of, but touring is not only a solitary experience…

 

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RGS-IBG 2017 – The role of expert knowledge in socio-environmental policy and decision making

Notes from two talks from the session on the role of expert knowledge. Details of the session in full are here.
The potential of citizen science to inform expert understanding: a case study of an urban river in London
Iain Cross (St Mary’s University, UK), Rob Gray (Friends of the River Crane Environment),  Joe Pecorelli (Zoological Society of London, UK)
Richard Haine (Frog Environmental, UK)
Abstract: “Increasingly, expert knowledge is becoming only one of many sources of understanding that influence environmental decision making and policy formulation. Traditional, top-down and technocratic modes of knowledge production are being challenged and, through what has been termed the ‘participatory turn’, knowledge is often co-produced among ‘experts’ and ‘non-experts’. A particularly widespread source of ‘non-expert’ knowledge is the citizen science (CS) community. CS projects can enable data to be collected over spatial or temporal scales that would be prohibitively expensive or logistically impossible for ‘expert’ data collection techniques. Whilst this data might be highly useful for policy and decision making, there can be a tension between the perceived reliability, accuracy or value of CS data compared to ‘scientifically collected’ data. This paper explores this tension in the context of an urban river CS project in London, through interviews with ‘experts’ and ‘non-experts’ from a variety of stakeholders. It highlights how significant events affecting the river environment mobilised public interest and the subsequent generation of ‘non-expert’ knowledge of the river. The paper provides an insight into how the perceived credibility and value of CS data by ‘experts’ can evolve over time, to become a significant driver of decision making. Key factors that have shaped this process include formal reporting mechanisms, partnerships with local authorities and statutory bodies, and corroboration of CS data with ‘expert’ data. The paper argues that CS blurs the traditional boundary between experts and non-experts and therefore challenges traditional definitions of ‘expert’ knowledge in environmental decision making.”
Iain Cross discussed citizen science as a source of expertise in an urban river. The situation is multiple stressors and degraded situation, ecosystems that deserve attention. They are subject to social/cultural interaction with the environment and nature. This makes it useful for citizen science – people volunteer to local groups, and also desire to do something – the intersection of volunteering and activism, there is a potential pool of local residents, and need for data. Look at the small catchment in west London ith multiple transport routes, lots of draining: urban run-off, sewage, domestic misconnections, surface water – and there are two major incidents in 2011 and 2013. The catchment partnership was created as a compensation for a major pollution incident. The £400K established a partnership that is working through the delivery of specific projects. Citizen science in three areas: water quality, riverfly monitoring, outfalls safari to identify where they are and their sources. The citizen science had a key role in the management decision. Try to identify differences between direct influence – data is used for regulation, and indirect. Examples for direct: reprioritisation of water company outfall projects (so where they dedicate resources to address them), and enforcement and additional investigations based on the data. Indirect – more reporting of water quality, empowering to understand the process a common language on what the regulator need, and exporting the model to neighbouring catchments. The research try to understand how did it became a credible source of knowledge, understand its influence and what happen in the future, through semi-structured interviews. So far there are 3 interlinked themes: early engagement with water company, a tight leadership of the project, and reliable data. Participants understand the regulatory environment , harmonisation of expert practices and reporting at conferences. In terms of project management 0 influence of certain people – and past contact and engagement with citizen science. The champions are very important – even within the regulators. The last thing is the production of good quality data – awareness of accreditation, QA process, spatial and temporal coverage attention and interpretation and reporting of data.
Future
Expert and Experiential Knowledge in Pollinator Policy: The Perspectives of Beekeepers Siobhan Maderson (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Abstract: “Recent policy initiatives aim to counter the precipitous decline of pollinators and thus secure their role in food security and broader ecosystem services. The practical experiences and observations of beekeepers are recognised as having the potential to both monitor, and improve, the wellbeing of pollinators As part of wider trends towards participatory governance, many initiatives notably stress the importance of engaging with beekeepers, as well as scientists, and other stakeholders whose study or practice holds the potential to improve environmental conditions that impact pollinator wellbeing. However, such multi-stakeholder engagement still prioritises ‘experts’, and struggles to adequately incorporate knowledge which contradict wider policies. This paper will discuss the perceptions of beekeepers on the relative influence and use of ‘expert’ and ‘experiential’ knowledge in pollinator policy-making. Unlike the expert scientific knowledge relied upon by policy-makers as central to EBPM, beekeepers’ understanding of bee health engages with systemic factors that are often hard to quantify or prove according to conventional scientific criteria. Beekeepers’ views result from long-term observation and engagement with specific local environments. Beekeepers are also a disparate community, holding contrary views on land use, agriculture, and the best means of ensuring pollinator wellbeing. My current PhD research focuses on interviews with long-term beekeepers whose tacit expertise is widely recognised throughout diverse beekeeping communities. I address the knowledges appropriated, and sidelined, in current pollinator policy, and how experiential knowledge is utilised by experts. I also address the challenges resulting from beekeepers’ tacit knowledge contrasting with current agricultural, land use, and economic policies.”
The research is concerned with pollinator decline, the threat to food security and the beekeepers seen as key stakeholders – both as monitoring: grounded knowledge in wellbeing and have the practical knwoledge. They can provide direct knwoeldge. The beekeepers also have a history of collaboration with scientists – e.g. providing details on harmful material (spraying incidents). Research include 36 beekeepers, archive and ethnography – many have a long term experience in the field. The discourse is about enthusiasm, citizen science, lay knowledge and related areas. She understand about environmental knowledge and observations, understanding their position within the community of practice and association, and also understanding views of policy making process and on the scientific process. The interviewees have massive knowledge – playing roles of inspectors, farmers, teaching others, board members of association, some several generations of beekeeping families – detailed local knowledge. The interviewees have STEM background. The results are showing that beekeepers combine tacit and explicit knowledge, and have profound specific local knowledge – microclimate, forage. Also had experience of involvement in policy and scientific research – they engage with entomologists. They do have empathy with farmers, frustration with voluntary initiatives and the wider food systems are seen as responsible for the problems. They collect data on phenology in the area, weather etc. There was a question about the debate and someone sceptic to media and public response to pollinator. In terms of participation in research – they do read scientific papers, but they feel that it is one way system – they put input and don’t feel that scientists take their views seriously. They feel lack of addressing local needs and policy process. They are doing lots of scientific processes – microscopy, pollen analysis and all sort of other information.

RGS-IBG 2017 – Just air? Spatial injustices, contestation and politicisation of air pollution (session notes)

These are notes from some of the talks from the two sessions on Just air? during the RGS-IBG conference in 2017. Details of the sessions are available here and here.
Passive, reactive and participatory governance of the air: three approaches under scrutiny
Nicola Da Schio, Bas Van Heur (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)
Looking at infrastructures, knowledge, and contestation as elements of their analysis. Scientific knowledge and experiential knowledge. Part of Smarter Labs project – living lab projects in 4 cities and in “Brussels living Lab” there are doing air pollution through a specific tool (low-cost black carbon monitor). They refer to the literature “government with science” of Whitehead – assumes knowledge production in the context of air pollution – generating knowledge is an essential part of managing it. It allows noticing how to make air visible and invisible, seeing the information about it as air infrastructure and examining the actual space for citizens to understand it. See different ways of participation – citizen receive information, consulted, and citizens are empowered to be governed. Similarly – deficit model, feedback model and collaborative research/citizen science and potential where co-production of knowledge appears.They also consider three roles for citizens: passive, active, co-produce. The situation in Brussels in fragmented institutional context – different bodies don’t talk with other organisations. Air quality is regional competence and understood as an environmental issue (not health – not even seen as such). Vibrant civil society, especially environmental organisations. Air pollution is seen traditionally as technical that should be left with experts. In the passive – government with science is passive, the reactive is in EIA, and the active role is in a project such as expAIR. Looking specifically as Mainstream GWS is being used by a regional governmental agency and interregional bodies. Citizens receive information and there are different policies. there are 13 measuring stations, providing information about the typical situation, and data analysis is done through BelATMO AQ index that is for communication, not for science. The information is communicated on a website with different colouring. Focus on ambient air pollution – just environmental matter. Pollution is only regulated contaminants, and spatial and temporal coverage across the area, and no special attention to specific places or the variability across space. There are contestations both from above (EU) and from below by the NGO Client Earth challenge to the government. They are contesting the policy with the same body of knowledge but also using different data. The expAIR project used 8 wearable devices for black carbon, the leading actors include the government and NGOs – the participants discuss the results. Conclusion – two different forms of knowledge:
the individual exposure that is seen as an environmental problem, while the participants sa group issue. The officials used it in different ways. The monopoly of air knowledge by the government is being challenged, in spite of that, it remains technical matter (analysis of the data), but co-production of knowledge but not being used, there is extensive scepticism towards citizen science. The role of instruments: faith in the tools/device which goes beyond what they can do. Huge faith in the information from the tool. A key moment is awareness of limitation.
On the other hand, there is the issue of who is doing the measurements, and the community has faith in the measurement of the citizens than the authorities. Another aspect is the proliferation of methods and devices around air and its multiple manifestations – so much more is measured and more visible. It can be politicised – the aim is closing the debate down so it is measured to address it. There is contradictory nature – how to open it up the discussion. In Delhi, there is state monitoring infrastructure = contested by civil society who use their own sensors and everyone agree that the state infrastructure is better, and other people don’t have the resources to confront the state produced data – the presence of data and data quality. Also which air to measure – is it about indoor or ambient which bring the gender, class and marginalisation.
There are issues of inclusion and exclusion in the production of knowledge – to minimise exclusion, the Brussels project makes a specific effort to include different groups. A key element of exclusion – only attract those that are already interested, and it can be challenging. In Delhi, there is also the issue of people who can understand English and understand the information and ability to be involved in the articulation of the systems.
How a large-scale citizen science project managed to combine scientific rigour, policy influence and deep citizen engagement by measuring ambient air quality in Antwerp Suzanne Van Brussel (Ghent University, Belgium)
Huib Huyse (KU Leuven, Belgium)
Abstract: Citizen Science projects are increasingly recognised as a stepping stone for triggering behaviour change and building social capital around environmental issues. However, overview studies observe recurrent challenges in many citizen science projects in terms of combining high levels of data quality with deep citizen engagement and policy influence. This paper reports on the findings of the CurieuzeNeuzen project (www.CurieuzeNeuzen.eu), a large scale citizen science project on air quality conducted in Antwerp in 2016, which managed to deliver simultaneously in the three result areas described above. CurieuzeNeuzen was initiated as an academic offspring by the citizen group Ringland, currently the largest citizen initiative in Belgium in the area of mobility, city planning and livability. Through CurieuzeNeuzen, 2000 citizen studied the air quality levels in and around Antwerp and were intensively deliberating on possible causes and solutions. The findings from CurieuzeNeuzen were picked-up academically and contributed actively to policy debates on air quality at the level of both city and region.”
Looking at Antwerp from a planning perspective – a need for sustainable mobility that requires behaviour change – so framing citizen science.  See behaviour change through social capital and citizen science as a catalyst and there need scientific rigour, effective policy uptake, and engaging enough citizens in the project. They are evaluating if the project managed to achieve this. They identify benefits and challenges and internal and external values. The CureuzeNeuzen CS project was designed as a co-created projects – measuring ambient traffic and aimed at behaviour change. The project included monitoring over 2000 locations across Antwerp – focusing on spatial distribution. The project focused on the number of volunteers, the validity of monitoring and the devices, they also used a well-tested method: diffusion tubes – cost effective at this scale and provided guidance on how to install them. The methodology was approved by the Flemish environment agency. They provided high detailed data-set which demonstrated the variability. The traffic intensity and distance from ring-road provided the explanation for variability. They compared results to models which underestimated the level of pollution. The policy uptake – there was involvement of research institutions, city administration who see it financially but since advantage. The local press also noticed it. The participation was driven by interest about air quality (91.8%) and also participation in a scientific project. People had a perception about the levels of air quality and a small group didn’t understand the issue (3%). For 58% the results matched their expectations. Of the 10% that found that the quality is worse than expected, didn’t want to put a poster about the data and its results due to concern about the message about their area. In terms of outreach, the project reached many more people than the direct participants. In terms of the perceptions of behaviour change, they are interested in seeing a change in less use of the car and more use of cycles, also selecting different routes to walk.
The politics of small particles: following PMs and their mobilities
Gordon Walker and Barbara Maher (Lancaster University, UK)
 The paper is following nano particulates – 50 nm and smaller. It’s the evolving science of air quality. Science has an important role in the governance of air – Boudia and Jas (2014) and Whitehead (2009) – its an evolving understanding of what the air is and how science comes to matter and air become part of policy formation. Barbara Maher is now looking at particulate and magnetite in the brain – with Gordon interest close to STS. The very high-resolution images of magnetite nanoparticles in brain samples – it was done with brain samples which are coming from cadavers and noticing nano-particles – 100nm to 10nm. particles that are crystalline or spherical. They have different sources. There are particles that are natural – from biogenic (from nature) but the spherical particles are non-biogenic – they are traces of the Anthropocene in the brain. Magnetite is abundant in urban airborne pollution. It’s a new visibility of small particles and their mobility, as well as new vulnerability – moving beyond the lungs but this is a different route that allows them to move to the brain directly. The early stage science opening up questions about the harm “matter out of place” – and what harm they are doing: potentially in Alzheimer and Dementia. Important “possible hazard” – very early stages.
The implications of rolling out this science – this and other forms of harms. What the geography? We don’t know what is the distribution of non-particles. No simple relationship with larger particles distribution also their circulations, accumulation is complex and uncertainties. Also, the sources are indoor and outdoors (e.g. toner), but even open fire. Filtering the diesel particles increased the production of nano particles. Also produced by breaking in cars. There are also complex temporalities of exposure and harm – like asbestos and might be that it only happens when people live long enough. So it can be disruptive of the assumed making and also what kind of justice – it’s not distributional: no classic analysis is possible, and it might not work. It is also procedural and epistemic – can get people involved but who to involve, whose voices should come – e.g. industrial environment, and is the work in the workplace that tested diesel can provide lay epidemiology. Ethical issues of how to respond to self-diagnosis.
The question is how disruptive will new making visible and what politics will come along with nature-culture, health consequences, responsibility, are there specific sites of contestation – work environment, places.
The politics of science and the media: the controversy on record air pollution in Oxford Street and other debates on bad air in London
Anneleen Kenis (KU Leuven, Belgium)

“This paper studies how air pollution as a largely invisible social-natural artefact has been translated into an issue of contention and debate in London during the last 20 years. Starting from the coverage of air pollution in five main newspapers, the paper identifies the critical discursive moments which significantly changed the terms of the debate. The staging of Oxford Street as the most polluted street in the world, the controversy around Sahara Dust as a ‘natural’ explanation for a smog episode in 2014, and the action of Black Lives Matter at London City Airport, which stated that those who are the first to die are not the first to fly, are just a few of the examples of initiatives that put air pollution on the agenda in recent years. The paper investigates the decisions, choices and exclusions that inevitably take place in this staging of air as a political issue. Already at the level of the construction of a scientific ‘fact’, processes of inclusion and exclusion take place. The spatial location of monitoring stations, the focus on particular pollutants and the chosen time frame influence the way the ‘fact’ of air pollution is constructed. But important choices also take place in the translation of these scientific ‘facts’ into ‘political ‘problems’. From high to illegal levels of air pollution, from the number of deaths to the level of costs, from people’s health to children’s health: these constructions all influence the terms of the debate. The emergence of political fault lines and antagonisms and the (lack of) activity of a whole range of social actors result from this and will in their turn further push the debate in specific directions. The paper analyses how this complex set of relations, and the forms of power involved, determined the framing of air pollution as we know it today.”

Media analysis of air quality in London which done in KCL group. Part of identifying how air is translated from largely invisible social natural artefact into political issues. Looked over 1594 articles in Guardian, FT, The Independent, Telegraph, Times. Started with quant analysis. Looked from 1997 to 2017. and noticed debate going on, until April 2014 from which it starts jumping up and especially growing very much now in 2017. The long period of low interest – the assumption is that “it’s all already there”, doesn’t lead to wider debate. Single articles, small spikes for all sort of reasons. April 2014 – Sahara dust and Oxford Street pollution – politicians dismiss it as a natural phenomenon that it is not serious. This is a moment that makes air pollution visible. There is another peak in 2015 in April 2015, the same story – the conflict seems to be overcome – are pollution is recognised as serious and man-made. Need new conflict lines – this is provided in July 2015 because of the Heathrow 3rd runway and VW scandal. There are conflict lines that are emerging and leading to interest: mayoral elections, MPs noticing public health emergency, Sadiq Khan making it a priority in May and Brexit debate toward the vote is noted. Last period from Sep 2016 and Mar 2017 you get social divisions and also “black lives matter city airport action” also the client earth work. Newspapers were selected according to who set the terms of the debate.

The upward spiral can come to saturation, or alternatively, new issues come to the foreground, say other issues.

Discussion points: other cases of impact on the brain include a mobilisation of the lead cases – and how people were thinking of bodies and vulnerability.

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

Deadline 10th November 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 below:

 

Start Date: January 2018

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 November 2017. Any incomplete applications will not be considered.

 

PhD studentship in Extreme Citizen Science – development of data collection tools with non-literate participants

For more information on ExCiteS and ECSAnVis, please visit here and here.

Studentship Description

The ExCiteS research group has been developing Sapelli since 2012 – this is a platform that facilitates data collection across language or literacy barriers through highly configurable icon-driven user interfaces. The successful candidate will join a team of anthropologists, ecologists, geographers,  computer scientists and designers and focus on extending the undertaken research work. This will include the design, prototype and implementation of Sapelli components that answer the needs and wishes of participants in citizen science projects. The research will mainly include aspects of data collection such as data validation, user authentication and designing user interfaces for non-literate participants. We will specifically focus on engagement of non-literate people and we need to understand how the process, from data collection to analysis, can be made meaningful and useful for their everyday life. The project will include working with non-literate forest communities in central Africa and seek to enable these vulnerable communities to conduct their own environmental monitoring or mapping. For more information, see papers by Stevens et al. 2014 (http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1431647/) and Vitos et al. 2017 (http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2998242).

Person Specification

The applicants should possess a good honours degree (1st Class or 2:1 minimum) in a relevant discipline such as Computer Science, Electronic Engineering or Human-Computer Interaction. The ideal candidate should also hold an MSc in Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, Human Factors, or Geographical Information Science and must have proven experience and skills in Software Engineering or Human Computer Interaction.

The ideal candidate should have excellent verbal and written communication skills and should be able to work as part of a team to design, develop and deploy software prototypes. Preferably, the candidate should have experience in programming in Java and Android and have a good understanding of code management systems such as GitHub. Skills in using Python would also be desired. Finally, since the case studies might involve travelling to central Africa, the candidate should have a willingness to travel in remote forest locations and thus French language skills would be desirable. The ability to be patient and understanding with local people is essential in this regard.

Eligibility

Applications are invited from UK and EU citizenship holders.

Start Date

Between September 2017 and January 2018, at time that is suitable to the candidate. A successful candidate will be asked to work with the Extreme Citizen Science group for two weeks (expenses covered) before registering to the PhD programme.

Application Procedure

Applicants should send a cover letter, 2-4 page research proposal, examples of academic writing (e.g. BSc or MSc dissertation), code outputs from past work and CV to Michalis Vitos (michalis.vitos@ucl.ac.uk) and Judy Barrett (judy.barrett@ucl.ac.uk). The cover letter should include a personal statement explaining your interest in citizen science, why you are interested in our project and how you would see your work integrated into ExCiteS vision and activities. You are welcome to contact Prof Muki Haklay (m.haklay@ucl.ac.uk) or Michalis or any other ExCiteS members with queries about your proposal or for an informal conversation. We are open call that is open until we appoint a suitable candidate.

Funding Notes

Duration – 3 years

Funding –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.

Funding Body: European Research Council (ERC) and UCL.

Cambridge Conference 2017 – The Willing Volunteer

wp-1499185668092The Cambridge Conference is an event that is held every 4 years, organised  by the Ordnance Survey, and it is a meeting of many heads of National Mapping Agencies who come together to discuss shared interests and learn from each other.

The history of the conference is available here. This year, I was asked to provide a talk about volunteered geographic information and the role of crowdsourced information in the service of national mapping bodies. As common in these conferences, I was given a title for the talk and request on the topic – this was “The Willing Volunteer –
Incorporating voluntary data into national databases” – and the description was: At present few mapping databases contain crowd sourced or voluntary data. Consider how, in the future, this will be a valuable source of data for national geospatial, cadastral and mapping agencies.

The talk itself covered 4 parts – since the conference as a whole looked at the future needs of mapping in the next 15 years, I’ve mentioned the trends that will influence crowdsourcing over this period. I’ve included both the technical and the social trends that will influence this area. I then covered few examples, and paid attention to the need to think differently about crowdsourced information (using the metaphor of scarcity/abundance as a way to explain that), then provided two insights from the “crowdsourcing geographic information in government” study that I’m currently leading. I’ve finished with few slides that demonstrate that engagement can reach out to everyone, regardless of their literacy.

Here are the slides:

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.