Citizen Science and Policy – possible frameworks

Back in February, my report ‘Citizen Science & Policy: a European Perspective‘ was published by the Wilson Centre in the US. As I was trying to make sense of the relevance of citizen science to policy making, I used a framework that included the level of geography, area of policy making and the type of citizen science activity. This helped in noticing that citizen science is working well at the neighbourhood, city and national scales, while not so well at regional and international level. The reasons for it are mostly jurisdiction, funding and organisational structure and scale of operation.

Later on, at a workshop that was organised by Prof Aletta Bonn on Citizen Science and Policy impact, the idea of paying attention to the role of citizen science within the policy cycle was offered as another dimension of analysis.

Last week, at a workshop that was organised by the European Environment Agency (EEA) as part of their work on coordinating the European Protection Agencies (EPA) Network, I was asked to provide an introduction to these frameworks.

The presentation below is starting with noting that citizen science in an EPA is a specific case of using crowdsourced geographic information in government and some of the common issues that we have identified in the report on how governments use crowdsourced information are relevant to citizen science, too. Of particular interest are the information flows between the public and government, and the multiple flows of environmental information that the 3rd era of environmental information brought.

After noticing the individual, organisational, business and conceptual issues that influence use in general, I turn to the potential framing that are available – geography, stage in policy formation and mode of engagement, and after covering those I’m providing few examples of case to illustrate how specific cases fit into this analysis.

It was quite appropriate to present this framework in the EEA, considering that the image that was used to illustrate the page of the report on the Wilson Center site, is of the NoiseWatch app which was developed by the EEA…

COST Energic Summer School on VGI and Citizen Science in Malta

Vyron Antoniou covering VGI foundations
Vyron Antoniou covering VGI foundations

COST Energic organised a second summer school that is dedicated to Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) and citizen science. This time, the school was run by the Institute for Climate Change & Sustainable Development of the University of Malta. with almost 40 participants from across Europe and beyond (Brazil, New Zealand), and, of course, participants from Malta. Most of the students are in early stage of their academic career (Masters and Ph.D. students and several postdoctoral fellows) but the school was also attended by practitioners – for example in urban planning or in cultural heritage. Their backgrounds included engineering, geography, environmental studies, sociology, architecture, biology and ecology, computer science. The areas from which the participants came from demonstrate the range of disciplines and practices that are now involved in crowdsourced data collection and use. Also interesting is the opening of governmental and non-governmental bodies to the potential of crowdsourcing as evident from the practitioners group.

The teachers on the programme, Maria Attard, Claire Ellul, Rob Lemmens, Vyron Antoniou, Nuno Charneca, Cristina Capineri (and myself) are all part of the COST Energic network. Each provide a different insight and interest in VGI in their work – from transport, to spatial data infrastructure or participatory mapping. The aim of the training school was to provide a ‘hands-on’ experience with VGI and citizen science data sources, assuming that some of the students might be new to the topics, the technologies or both. Understanding how to get the data and how to use it is an important issue that can be confusing to someone who is new to this field – where the data is, how do you consume it, which software you use for it etc.

Collecting information in the University of Malta
Collecting information in the University of Malta

After covering some of the principles of VGI, and examples from different areas of data collection, the students started to learn how to use various OpenStreetMap data collection tools. This set the scene to the second day, which was dedicated to going around the university campus and collecting data that is missing from OpenStreetMap, and carrying out both the data collection and then uploading the GPS Tracks and sharing the information. Of particular importance was the reflection part, as the students were asked to consider how other people, who are also new to OpenStreetMap will find the process.

Using meteorological sensors in Gozo
Using meteorological sensors in Gozo

The next level of data collection involved using sensors, with an introduction to the potential of DIY electronics such as Arduino or Raspberry Pi as a basis for sensing devices. A field trip to Gozo in the next day provided the opportunity to explore these tools and gain more experience in participatory sensing. Following a lecture on participatory GIS application in Gozo, groups of students explored a local park in the centre of Rabat (the capital of Gozo) and gained experience in participatory sensing and citizen science.

Learning together The training school also included a public lecture by Cristina Capineri on ‘the fortune of VGI’.

The students will continue to develop their understanding of VGI and citizen science, culminating with group presentations on the last day. The most important aspects of any training school, as always, is in the development of new connections and links between the people on the programme, and in the conversations you could notice how these areas of research are still full of questions and research challenges.

COST ENERGIC meeting – Tallinn 21-22 May

TallinnThe COST Energic network is progressing in its 3rd year. The previous post showed one output from the action – a video that describe the links between volunteered geographic information and indigenous knowledge.

The people who came to the meeting represent the variety of interest in crwodsourced geographic information, from people with background in Geography, Urban planning, and many people with interest in computing – from semantic representation of information, cloud computing, data mining and similar issues where VGI represent an ‘interesting’ dataset.

Part of the meeting focused on the next output of the network, which is an Open Access book which is titled ‘European Handbook of Crowdsourced Geographic Information’. The book will be made from short chapters that are going through peer-review by people within the network. The chapters will cover topics such as theoretical and social aspects, quality – criteria and methodologies, data analysis and finally applied research and case studies. We are also creating a combined reference list that will be useful for researchers in the field. There will be about 25 chapters. Different authors gave a quick overview of their topics, with plenty to explore – from Smart Cities to concepts on the nature of information.

COST ‘actions’ (that’s how these projects are called), operate through working groups. In COST Energic, there are 3 working groups, focusing on human and societal issues,  Spatial data Quality and infrastructures, and Data mining, semantics and VGI.

Working Group 1 looked at an example of big data from Alg@line –  22 years of data of ferry data from the Baltic sea – with 17 millions observations a year. Data from  that can be used for visualisation and exploring the properties. Another case study that the working group consider is the engagement of schoolchildren and VGI – with activities in Portugal, Western Finland, and Italy. These activities are integrating citizen science and VGI, and using free and open source software and data. In the coming year, they are planning specific activities in big data and urban planning and crowd atlas on urban biodiversity.

Working Group 2 have been progressing in its activities linking VGI quality with citizen science, and how to produce reliable information from it. The working group collaborate with another COST action (TD1202) which called ‘Mapping and the Citizen Sensor‘. They carried out work on topics of quality of information – and especially with vernacular gazetteers. In their forthcoming activities, they contribute to ISSDQ 2015 (international symposium on spatial data quality) with a set of special sessions. Future work will focus on quality tools and quality visualisation.

Prof. Cristina Capineri opening the meeting
Prof. Cristina Capineri opening the meeting

Working Group 3 also highlighted the ISSDQ 2015 and will have a good presence in the conference. The group aims to plan a hackathon in which people will work on VGI, with a distributed event for people to work with data over time. Another plan is to focus on research around the repository. The data repository from the working group – contains way of getting of data and code. It’s mostly how to get at the data.

There is also a growing repository of bibliography on VGI in CiteULike. The repository is open to other researchers in the area of VGI, and WG3 aim to manage it as a curated resource. 

VGI and indigenous knowledge – COST Energic Video

The COST Energic network has been running now for 3 years, and one of the outputs from the network is the video below, which explore a very valuable form of Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI). This is information that is coming from participatory projects between researchers and indigenous communities, and this short film provide examples from Bolivia, British Columbia, and the Congo Basin, where researchers in the network are working with local communities to collect information about their areas and issues that concern them.

The video was produced by Lou del Bello, and include some stock photos and footage. The images that are marked with titles are from COST Energic Activities. Lou has also created a short video on the work of the Extreme Citizen Science group in her report on Mapping the Congo on SciDev

The video is released just before a meeting of the COST Network, held in Tallinn, and hosted by the Interaction Design Lab of Tallinn University.

Spatial Conversation – #VGIday #COSTEnergic

The COST Energic network (see VGIBox.eu ) is running a 2 day geolocated twitter chat, titled ‘Volunteered Geographic Information Day’ so the hashtag is #VGIDay. The conversation will take place on 14th and 15th May 2015, and we are universalists – join from anywhere in the world!
Joining is easy – and require 3 steps:

  1. Follow the @COST_Energic profile
  2. Enable your phone to disclose your position – this will allow to geocode your tweets.
  3. To participate to the discussion, use at least one of the dedicated hashtags in tweets: #COSTEnergic, #VGIday

What are we trying to do?

Discussions will be started by @COST_Energic. Through this twitter handle, we will share resources, results and ideas about the topic of VGI and geographic crowdsourcing. You can join the discussions, bring your ideas and links, and involve your contacts, and this will spread this event through the Twittersphere (and beyond?).
At the end of the experiment, we will produce a report of the generated discussion for our ENERGIC repository, and the dataset of tweets can be then used by researchers who want to visaulise, analyse and try to do things with it. It might end up as teaching material, or in IronSheep

AAG 2015 notes – day 4 – Citizen Science & OpenStreetMap Studies

The last day of AAG 2015 is about citizen science and OpenStreetMap studies.

The session Beyond motivation? Understanding enthusiasm in citizen science and volunteered geographic information was organised together with Hilary Geoghegan. We were interest to ‘explore and debate current research and practice moving beyond motivation, to consider the associated enthusiasm, materials and meanings of participating in citizen science and VGI.’

As Hilary couldn’t attend the conference, we started the session with a discussion about experiences of enthusiasm – for example, my own experience with IBM World Community Grid.  Jeroen Verplanke raised the addiction in volunteer thinking projects, such as logging in to Zooniverse or Tomnod project, and time fly-by. Mairead de Roiste described mapping wood-pigeon in New Zealand – public got involved because they wanted to help, but when they hear that the data wasn’t use, they might lose interest. Urgency can also be a form influencing participation.

Britta Ricker – University of Washington Tacoma – Look what I can do! Harnessing drone enthusiasm for increased motivation to participate. On-going research. Looking at the Geoweb – it allow people to access information, and made imagery available to the public, and the data is at the whim of whoever give us the data. With drones, we can send them up when we want or need to. Citizen Science is deeply related to geoweb – challenge is to get people involve and make them stay involved. We can harness drone enthusiasm – they evoke negative connotation but also thinking about them for good – humanitarian applications. Evidence for the enthusiasm is provided by YouTube where there are plenty of drone video – 3.44M – lots of action photography: surfing community and GoPro development. People are attached to the drone – jumping to the water to save them. So how the enthusiasm to drones can be harnessed to help participatory mapping. We need to design a workflow around stages: pre-flight, flight, post processing. She partnered with water scientists to explore local issues. There are considerations of costs and popularity – and selected quadcopter for that. DJI Phantom Vision 2+. With drones need to read the manual and plan the flight. There are legal issues of where it is OK to fly, and Esri & MapBox provide information on where you can fly them. Need to think of camera angle – need also to correct fisheye, and then process the images. Stitch imagery can be done manually (MapKnitter/QGIS/ArcGIS). Possible to do it in automated software, but open source (e.g. OpenDroneMap) is not yet good enough in terms of ease of use. Software such as Pix4D is useful but expensive. Working with raster data is difficult, drones require practice, and software/hardware is epensive – not yet ready to everyone. NGOs can start using it. Idea: sharing photos , classifying images together by volunteers.

Brittany Davis – Allegheny College – Motivated to Kill: Lionfish Derbies, Scuba Divers, and Citizen Science. Lionfish are stunning under water – challenging to differentiate between the two sub species but it doesn’t matter if you’re trying to catch them. They are invasive species and are without predators, exploded – especially from 2010. There is a lot of informational campaign and encouraging people to hunt them, especially in dive centres – telling people that it is a way to save a Caribbean reefs. When people transform themselves from ‘benign environmental activity’ to ‘you tell me that I can hunt? cool!’. Lionfish is tasty so having the meat for dinner is a motivation. Then doing ‘lionfish derbies’ – how many can you kill in a day. Seen a lot of enthusiasm for lionfish derbies. Trying to sign up people to where they go but they are not recording where they hunt the lionfish. People go to another site for competition as they want to capture more. REEF trying to encourage a protocol for capturing them, and there are cash prizes for the hunting. They use the catch to encourage people to hunt lionfish. Derbies increase in size – 14832 were removed from 2009 to 2014 and some evidence for the success of the methodology. There was a pressure on ‘safely and humanely capture and euthanase these fish’ – challenge for PADI who run special scuba courses that are linked to conservation. People hear about the hunting and that motivate people to go diving. There is a very specific process of REEF sanctioned lionfish derby, so trying to include recording and public information. But there are challenges below the depth of recreational divers. She also explored if it is possible to improve data collection for scientists.

Cheryl Gilge – University of Washington – The rhetorical flourish of citizen participation (or, the formation of cultural fascism?) offered a theoretical analysis of citizen science and web 2.0 as part of a wider project to understand labour relationships and power. She argues that there is agency to the average citizen to link to their environment. They have the ability to contribute, and to receive information is part of Web 2.0. As a technology layer, it changes both the individual and society levels. The collaboration and participation in Web 2.0 is framed around entrepreneurialism, efficiencies, and innovation. The web is offering many opportunities to help wider projects, where amateur and expert knowledge are both valued. However, there is a risk of reducing the politics of participation – semblance of agency. Democratic potential – but also co-opting the spirit is in evidence. There is plenty of examples of inducing individuals to contribute data and information, researchers are eager to understand motivation over a long period. Rational system to explain what is going on can’t explain the competing goals and values that are in action. The desire to participation is spread – fun, boredom etc. From understanding people as ‘snowflakes’ to unashamed exploitation. Why do people contribute to the wider agenda? As provocation, harnessing crowd potential to neoliberalisation agenda of universities. We give freedom to the efficiency and promise of digital tools. Government promise ‘open government’ or ‘smart cities’ that put efficiency as the top value. Deep libertarian desire for small government is expressed through technology. The government have sensors that reduce cost of monitoring what is happening. In the academic environment – reduce funding, hiring freeze, increase in pressure to publish – an assumption that it is possible to mechanically produce top research. Trading in ideas are less valued. Desire for capacity of information processing, or dealing with humanitarian efforts – projects like Galaxy Zoo require more people to analyse the masses of data that research produces, or mapathons to deal with emergencies. Participants are induced to do more through commitment to the project and harnessing enthusiasm. Adding inducement to the participants. She introduce the concept of micro-fascism from Guattari  – taking over freedoms in the hope of future promises. It enable large group formation to happen – e.g. identities such as I’m Mac/PC – it is harder to disconnect. Fascism can be defined as an ideology that rely on the masses in believing in the larger goals, the unquestioned authority of data in Web 2.0. Belief in technology induce researchers to get data and participation regardless of the costs. Open source is presented as democracy, but there are also similarities with fascism. Participation in the movement and participants must continue to perform. It bring uncomfortable participation – putting hope on these activities, but also happens in top down and bottom up, and Web 2.0. What is the ethical role of researchers who are involved in these projects? How do we value this labour? Need to admit that it is a political.

In a final comment, Teresa Scassa pointed that we need to consider the implication of legitimising drones, killing fish or employing unpaid labour – underlying all is a moral discomfort.

Afternoon, the two sessions on OpenStreetMap that Alan McConchie and I organised, taking the 10th birthday of OSM as a starting point, this session will survey the state of geographical research on OpenStreetMap and recognising that OSM studies are different from VGI. The session is supported by the European COST Energic (COST Action IC1203) network: European Network Exploring Research into Geospatial Information Crowdsourcing.

OpenStreetMap Studies 1 

Jennings Anderson, Robert Soden, Mikel Maron, Marina Kogan & Ken Anderson – University of Colorado, Boulder – The Social Life of OpenStreetMap: What Can We Know from the Data? New Tools and Approaches. OSM provides a platform to understand human centred computing. The is very valuable information in OSM history file, and they built a framework (EPIC OSM) that can run spatial and temporal queries and produces JSON output that can be then analysed. They are use existing tools and software frameworks to deliver it. The framework was demonstrated: can ask questions by day, or by month and even bin them by week and other ways. Running such questions which are evaluated by Ruby, so easy to add more questions and change them. They already use the framework in a paper in CHI about the Haiti earthquake (see video below).  Once they’ve created the underlying framework, they also developed an interface – OSM Markdown – can embed code and see changesets, accumulative nodes collected and classification by type of user. They are also providing information with tags. When analysing Haiti response, they see spike in noted added and what they see in buildings – the tags of collapse=yes

Christian Bittner – Diverse crowds, diverse VGI? Comparing OSM and Wikimapia in JerusalemChristian looked at differences in Wikimapia and OSM as sources of VGI. Especially interested in the social implications such as the way exclusion plays in VGI – challenges between Palestine/Israel – too contradicting stories that play out in a contested space, and there are conflict and fights over narratives that the two sides enact in different areas. With new tools, there is a ‘promise’ of democratisation – so a narrative of collaboration and participation. In crowdsourced geographic information we can ask: who is the crowd, and who is not? Studying social bias in OSM is a topic that is being discussed in the literature. The process is to look at the database of OSM. Analysing the data and metadata and used the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Simplified representation of the city, and region are classified by majority – Arab or Jewish. Then used cartograpms according to size of population and the amount of information collected.In OSM, Jewish areas are over-represented, while Arab areas are under-represented. Bias toward male from privileged socio-economic background as participants. In Wikimapia, the process is tagging places and uses visual information from Google. Wikimapia is about qualitative information so objects are messy and overlap, with no definitions of what consist of a place. In Wikimapia, there is much more descriptions of the Arab areas which are over-represented. The amount of information in Wikimpaia is smaller – 2679 objects, compared to 33,411 ways in OSM. In OSM there is little Arabic, and more Hebrew, though Latin is the most used language. Wikimapia is the other way around, with Hebrew in the minority. The crowd is different between projects. There are wider implications – diverse crowd so diverse VGI? VGI is diverse form of data, and they are produced in different ways from different knowledge cultures. He call for very specific studies on each community before claiming that VGI is general form of information.

Tim Elrick  & Georg Glasze – University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany –  A changing mapping practices? Representation of Places of Worship in OpenStreetMap and other sourcesThe start of the process is noticing that churches are presented on official maps, but not a masques, noticing how maps are used to produce specific narratives. What happen in new forms of mapping? In Google Maps, the masque is presented, but not the church, in OSM both are mapped. What is happening? In the old topographic maps, the official NMAs argue that it provides a precise representation – but failing to do so in terms of religious differences. Some state do not include non-Christian places of worship – the federal mapping agency came with symbols for such places (masques, synagogues) but the preference from the states NMAs was for a generic mark for all non-Christian places that do not differentiate between religions. USGS just have single mark for house of worship – with cross. The USGS suggested to carry out crowdsourcing to identify places of worship so they are willing to change. In OSM there are free tagging and marks for religion, but the rendering dictate only some tags. In 2007 there was suggestion to change rendering of non-Christian places. Once Steve Chilton created cartographic symbols for the change. OSM do-ocracy can lead to change, but in other places that use OSM this was not accepted – there are different symbols in OpenCycleMaps. In Germany, there are conflicts about non visible places of worship (e.g. Masque in social club). Adaptive approach to dealing with location in OSM. In Google there is a whole set of data sources that are used, but also crowdsourcing which go to moderators in Google – no accountability or local knolwedge. Places of worship is not transparent. Categorisation and presentation change with new actors – corporate and open data. Google use economy of attention.

Alan McConchie – University of British Columbia – Map Gardening in Practice: Tracing Patterns of Growth and Maintenance in OpenStreetMap. Looking at history of OSM. Editing existing features is an important as adding new ones – having to collaborate and dealing with other people data. In the US, OSM is a mixed of volunteer and imported data – it’s ongoing aspect of the project. Questions: do the ‘explorers’ stick around? the people who like empty spaces . Do imports hinder the growth of the community? and does activity shift to ‘gardening’? The TIGER import in 2007 have been significant to the growth of the project. There are also many other imports – address in Denmark, French land cover, incomplete land cover imports in Canada. There was community backlash from people who were concerned about the impact of imports (e.g. Crowe 2011; Fredrik Ramm, 2012, Tobias Knerr, 2015). The debate is also between different regional factions. There is an assumption that only empty areas are exciting. That is problematic in terms of someone joining now in Germany. New best practices that are evolving Imports in Seattle were used to encourage the community and build it. Zielstra et al. 2013 explored imports show different growths, but not so simple as just to pin it on imports. Alan takes the ‘Wiki Gardening’ concept – people who like to keep things tidy and well maintained. Analysing small areas. Identifying blank spots, but trying to normalise across city in the world – e.g. population from the gridded population of the world. Exploring edits per month. We see many imports happening all the time. At individual city, explore the behaviour of explorers and those that never mapped the unknown. In London, new mappers are coming in while at Vancouver the original mapper are the one that continue to maintain the map. There is power law effects that trump anything else, and shift to new contributors and it is not clear cut.

Monica G. Stephens – University at Buffalo – Discussant: she started looking at OSM only few years ago, because of a statement from Mike Goodchild that women are not included, so done survey of internet users in Google Maps and OSM. She found that geotagging is much more male – more then just sharing image. In her survey she noticed gender bias in OSM. Maps are biased by the norms, traditions, assumptions and politics of map maker (Harley 1989). Biases – but biases of map maker – bikes in Denver (what interest them), or uneven representation of Hebrew in Jerusalem, or Religious attributes. Also there is how the community makes decision – how to display information? what to import? There are issues of ethos – there are fundamental differences in UK and Germany communities to US mapping communities. This lead to interesting conversations between these communities. There are also comparison, Wikimapia, Google Maps, Topo Maps – the tell us what OSM is doing. OSM democracy is more efficient and responding to communities ideas. The discussions on tagging childcare – rejected but there are discussions that led to remapping of tags in response to the critique. Compare to Google Maps, who was creating local knowledge? in Google Maps 96% of reviewers are male (in Google Map Maker 2012), so the question is who is the authority that govern Wikimapia.

OpenStreetMap Studies 2  included the following:

Martin Loidl – Department of Geoinformatics, University of Salzburg – An intrinsic approach for the detection and correction of attributive inconsistencies and semantic heterogeneity in OSM data. Martin come from data modelling perspective, accepting that OSM is based on bottom-up approach, with flat data modelling and attributes, with no restriction on tag usage. There are attributive inconsistencies. Semantics heterogeneity is influencing visualisation, statistics and spatial analysis. Suggesting to improve results by harmonization and correction through estimation. There has been many comparison of OSM quality over the years. There is little work on attribute information. Martin suggested an intrinsic approach that rely on the data in OSM – expecting major roads to be connected and consistent. Showing how you can attributes in completeness. Most of the road in OSM are local roads and  and there is high heterogeneity, but we need them and we should care about them. There are issues with keeping the freedom to tag – it expose the complexity of OSM.

Peter A. Johnson – University of Waterloo Challenges and Constraints to Municipal Government Adoption of OpenStreetMap. The collaboration of MapBox with NYC – agreement on data sharing was his starting point and motivation to explore how we can connect government and citizens to share data. Potentially, OSM community will help with official data, improve it and send it back. Just delivering municipal data over OSM base map is not much – maybe we need to look at mirroring – questions about currency, improvement of our services, and cheaper/easier to get are core questions. Evaluating official data and OSM data. Interview with governments in Canada, with range of sizes – easy in large cities, basic steps in medium and little progress in rural places. No official use of OSM, but do make data available to OSM community, and anecdotal evidence of using it for different jobs unofficially. Not seeing benefits in mirroring data, and they are the authoritative source for information, no other data is relevant. Constraints: not sure that OSM is more accurate and risk averse culture. They question fit with organisation needs, lacking required attributes, and they do see costs in altering existing data. OSM might be relevant to rural and small cities where data is not being updated.

Muki Haklay – University College London COST Energic – A European Network for research of VGI: the role of OSM/VGI/Citizen Science definitionsI’ve used some of the concepts that I first presented in SOTM 2011 in Vienna, and extended them to the general area of citizen science and VGI. Arguing that academics need to be ‘critical friends’, in a nice way, to OSM and other communities. The different talks and Monica points about changes in tagging demonstrate that this approach is effective and helpful.

Discussant: Alan McConchie – University of British Columbia. The later session looked at intrinsic or extrinsic analysis of OSM – such as Martin’s work on internal consistency, there are issues of knowing specific person in the bits of the process who can lead to the change. There is a very tiny group of people that make the decisions, but there is a slow opening towards accountability (e.g. OSM rendering style on Github). There are translation of knowledge and representation that happen in different groups and identifying how to make the information correctly. There is a sense of ‘no one got the right answer’. Industry and NGOs also need to act as critical friends – it will make it a better project. There is also critical GIS conversations – is there ‘fork’ within the OSM studies? We can have conversations about these issues.

Follow up questions explored the privacy of the participants and maybe mentioned it to participants and the community, and also the position as participant or someone who alters the data and as a researcher – the implications of participatory observations.

AAG 2015 notes – day 2 – Public Participation GIS symposium

The second day was dedicated to reflections on Public Participation GIS or Participatory GIS. The day was organised by Rina Ghose and Bandana Karr with some comments from Renee Sieber and me at some stage. It turned out to be an excellent symposium.DSC01463

The following are my notes from the different talks during the day.

Jon Corbett, Associate Professor – University of British Columbia-Okanagan
Rachelle Hole, Associate Professor – University of British Columbia Okanagan: Plain Language Mapping: Rethinking the Participatory Geoweb to Include Users with Intellectual Disabilities. Jon talked about the background of participatory mapping – starting from development context. Within the geoweb, it is easy to forget what the aim of the system. He describes people who are with intellectual disabilities, and because work is so meaningful in society, they wanted to enable such people to share experience about employment. They wanted to especially focus on positive experiences that can be shared. They started created an employment mapping tool using the GeoWeb, to understand how to overcome barrier for employment. They are working with different stakeholders  – and  the map uses classification with the job type and the process stage. They see it as opportunity for people to share details and create a network of support. They used co-design which included people with intellectual disabilities. There are issues in the design – dealing with ‘contribution bottleneck’ and change the interface of the wizard that enter information to the system so that is not text driven. The assumption of tech poverty for people with intellectual disabilities is wrong – but they use it differently to other users, so need to recognise what they use (e.g. smartphones) and adjust to them. Hammering spatial literacy – do we need to solve everything with maps? Can we solve it without it? it is a thing that we need to ask.

Greg Brown – University of Queensland –  The Vexing Problem of Spatial Aggregation in PPGIS/PGIS/VGI for Sustainable Land Use. The problem of spatial aggregation and crowdsourcing. Over 25 studies from different planning contexts  – described at www.landscapevalues.org . Within participatory mapping, terminology is maddening: is it PPGIS, PGIS or VGI? In reviewing the area, he suggests PPGIS (west), PGIS (development), VGI (technology). In PPGIS, which Greg focused on, it is dominated by rational, synoptic planning – but there is an alternative, radical planning that make it all contextualised and situated. Participatory mapping bring three aspects about places: place ecology, place phenomenology (experience) and place management. The breakthrough in PPGIS/PGIS was to move from GIS that focuses on the physical world, to one that is about values and the experiences that people have. We need to get beyond the rhetoric and in participatory mapping we need to improve the substantive quality of decision-making. Is public participation is the wisdom of the crowds or the tyranny of the masses? Crowdsourcing can get better decision-making through Surowiecki type analysis on ‘wisdom of crowd’. In many participatory mapping we haven’t made difference – and there are multiple reasons for it, from concern about the role of expert and the public to regulatory reasons. When you aggregate the data, you have a challenge of how to count the voices. PPGIS/PGIS/VGI have not substantively influenced land use decisions – technology is search of actual impact. The issue is political – how to weight and agree on weighting etc. Bridging the spatial and the political is the challenge.

Patrick Oberle – Syracuse University – Web-Mapping Practices and Challenges in Syracuse, NY. Covering experience in Syracuse Community Geography programme. Syracuse is very poor, and community-based organisations (CBOs) have an important role in the city with lots of CBOs. The main points to explore are neogeography and alow citizen ‘scientists’, democratisation of knowledge production and considering local information. He run a series of local workshops on how to use Google Maps Engine to CBOs and to what degree they support CBOs. He looked a the Syracuse Poster Project (public art with poems), and PEACE inc. which is community action agency, with ‘head start/early start programme for children, and other poverty-reduction programmes. They wanted a map to show where they presented their posters – they created an effective map with details that lead you to prints. It took them 7 months to create map. They had a sense of place that made it easy to adopt cartographic viewpoint – they had narrow goals. PEACE wanted to engage with population and had vague goals of managing their places. They had broad organisation mission and complex needs – which mean that the effort was not successful. They found it hard to dedicate staff to focus on the task. However, even for the poster project it was challenging to work through and deal with technology. Data is also not accessible – in contrast to NYC, Syracuse cannot afford to prepare data for sharing and provide open data. We need to engage the producers of the technologies, need experimentation with technology and processes, and help people to understand the paradigm of data-driven perspective. It is not obvious to unfamiliar organisations and groups. Now that Google Map Engine is discontinued they need to figure out how to move it to a new ways of delivering, but they are capable of recruiting interns.

Muning Wang – University of Washington and Isabel Carrera Zamanillo – University of Washington – Comparing institutional resistance between PGIS VGI, Citizen Science implementation in environmental management. Looking at the way that the information that is provided by the citizens – who use them and for what. From a literature review, they analysed what people do with volunteer collected  geographic information. It is described in education and outreach, land value investigation of landscape planning, TEK in management of fish population, and decision-making support for community conservation. Barriers: credibility, administrative jurisdiction, conflict with existing hierarchies, time that it takes to create collaboration, information capabilities and insufficient direct benefits to managers. Current synthesis – Francis Harvey volunteered vs contributed, Tulloch VGI data/knowledge creation vs PPGIS uses data to make decision, while Lin 2013 aruge that they are intertwined. Haklay argue that VGI/Citizen Science doesn’t provide enough participatory space. Trying to explain the differences is challenging! One way to look is to explore cases. To do the cross-case comparison, they are trying to generalise patterns, using systematic review or meta-analysis. A workshop helps to carry out the analysis of cases. They suggested meta-categories: prupose, environment focus, role of technology, actors interaction and other factors. They analysed 12 cases – but they want to compare more. They want to carry out cross-case comparison and provide analysis across cases, completeness of data collection. They are aiming to demonstrate the diversity of PGIS, VGI, and citizen science projects

Stephen R Appel – University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Department of Geography  – Information Justice and Public Geospatial Data. The aim of his research was to understand the scope and purpose of access to data and in what way data is accessed. The run a survey of municipalities, counties, land information association and then interviews with participants and web site survey. Referred to GIS & Society literature. The aspects of power in access the data and legal issue with data. He found variety of practices among counties in terms of opening and licensing the data. Most counties have web services, but it is variable. Conclusions are – extreme variation in policy, availability, and activities. Most allow academic use, and academic users need to get ready to use web services.

The second session 2253 Looking Backwards and Forwards in Participatory GIS: Session II started with a short discussion, due to gap in the schedule.

Some discussion points started to emerge: how data should be integrated with other systems? how to be inclusive? but also how to make the data active and relevant to decisions and results? How to give voices to people who are marginalised – all participatory process have double objectives: empowerment but also want content that is actionable. Sometime they contradict each other. A very small group of people are participating . Though need to accept that all democratic processes are messy.

Yoshiki Wakabayashi – Tokyo Metropolitan University & Mikoto Kukimoto – Oita University –  Possibilities and Limitations of Childcare Support Maps from the Viewpoint of Participatory GIS. The GeoWeb in Japan became part of the technologies used by government. The relationship between the voluntary sector and government is something need to be explored. Increase maps of childcare support, with about 10% of the total of online maps. There are more working mothers and childcare is an issue that concerns local government. He analysed 360 maps of childcare support in Tokyo Metropolitan Area, defining 3 levels – Level 1 – static, 2 some interaction, 3 – adding data (participatory), using the Sieber and Johnson framework. There are only few examples of level 3. More than half of the maps are interactive, but only few are truly participative. You also see the use of Google Maps as basemap and that increase usability. There are also maps that were made by voluntary group – made by mothers in the Meguro Ward. The group funded by local government, and core group of 5 mothers collected the data. The technical skills include Google Docs, Yahoo! mailing lists. Maps were printed and delivered in community meetings. They also include comments on the map (e.g. ‘cannot enter with buggy’ but also ‘delicious bagel’). The voluntary group cross jurisdiction issues. Maps were also shared on facebook – the purpose of the maps is to make link between community members, exchange childcare information and facilitate face to face communication – so they didn’t want an online map. The conclusion is that the local government maps while web-based, are not encouraging participation.

Renee Sieber – McGill University. Frictionless Civic Participation and the Geospatial Web. The increasing view of participation as frictionless. ‘Participation is very easy now – you just harvest sentiment from twitter or other social media’. She wonder if participation is effortless and in the background – just getting it from extracting what people say on media. In Smart Cities there is a view that the city need to be frictionless. Observations: 1. via frictionlessness participation is increasingly rooted in technocratic governance. The technocracy is setting the problem and the solution, but it’s not to be discussed but to be communicated. 2. Participation is not a transaction. Making public participation as a transaction and not engaging democratically. Relationship between government and citizen as transaction and consumptive experience. 3. Frictionless participation is increasingly unitary & lacks resilience – individuals interacting separately and therefore can’t build movement. 4. Geo-carpetbaggers who can ‘deliver participation’ much faster – computer scientists offer it in a faster way, what is the point in deep engagement if it is possible to create an app in 2 hours. 5. Participation is not 140 characters – it’s not about harvesting stuff for meaning. There is algorithmic regulation to set why you are engaging and who you are. Conclude: we make the assumption that the web/mobile is  democratising – we problematise the government or the private sector, but citizens want convenience and we should challenge them too. Also public on the Internet can be trolls or game the system.

Mike McCall – Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Mexico, with Jeroen Verplanke – ITC University of Twente and Claudia Uberhuaga – Technical University of Madrid – What does PGIS have to learn from VGI/Crowd Sourcing, so that we survive and prosper? PGIS and VGI have common purpose? there are changes in image of authority and offering alternative authority (UGC, citizen science, counter-maps, promoting feelings of Agency. Maybe we should think of VGI.2 – vulgar grounded intelligence. PGIS offer verification – trust, interaction, reputation & accountability. It’s physical, tactile, material, visual and sharing the process which is meaningful. Participation has to be slow and costly per unit of information – even volunteers need compensation. VGI provides speed, currency. Less manipulation – it is very cheap per quantitative unit of information. But the downside of VGI that it doesn’t give 2-way interaction and feedback, no rich data, no FPIC (Free & Prior Informed Consent), transparency and commercialisation. Both forms are open to ‘Elite Capture’. PGIS the question who control the framing or the inputs. The framing is easy to manipulate and take over. Very easily to control. VGI control the aggregation and the framing. The question is: can we speed up PGIS when we need it? That will mean the focus on the results. Most PGIS are short-term work done by NGOs or research organisations. It is one-off because of funding. Also need to think about the scale beyond parochial – broader dissemination in time, broader dissemination in place, share good practices fast. Scale can be in online participatory mapping and we want to make it more participatory – even hinder elite capture. Not to have naive belief in community solidarity or in crowd wisdom. Also where the trust come from -internal and external.

Rina Ghose – University Of Wisconsin Milwaukee – Deconstructing Citizen Participation and Spatial Knowledge Production. Rina looks at places where people are marginalised along class and race – multiple marginalisation. Working since 1993 with community groups in inner city neighbourhood. Very racialised landscape. Strong digital and other divides, and geospatial divides. The context of PPGIS is that in many cities there is a mandate for community participation in the US, participation is not smooth due to neoliberalisation in different form. It leads to inequities and poverty. The collaborative governance model is about public private partnership that are shaped around restructuring the role of the state and reduction of funding to community organisation and social welfare. Service delivery is not done by the state. She use political economy analysis from Kevin Cox work – spaces of dependence where there are some spaces of engagement , with politics of turf. Rhetoric of citizen participation is done through performative acts – volunteerism, self help (right to the city – prove that you are good enough to deserve the rights). Many activists led organisations are being put out of action by removing the funding. In Milwaukee university there is a long tradition of supporting CBOs and can see the complex network. CBOs have challenges such as reduced funding, and they wanted to bring facts to demonstrate the needs are not being met. Role of activists are shifting, but they are asked for rationale for investment and demonstrate professionalism. There is on going data collection and using maps for traditional activities. Using paper maps overlays . Neoliberal rationalities are dictating the way CBOs operate and work. Maps were used to communicate, plan and create spatial strategies – e.g. mapping liquor stores, but also asset mapping to show potential for economic development and show successful project outcomes. Maps are ‘brag sheets’ – demonstrate fiscal outcomes or client demand, dealing with health issues. Neoliberal impacts: spatial knowledge production is shaped by rationalities as project goals. The organisations lack GIS abilities and it is crucial for them to get support from the university and other people who offer help. Politics shape use of data. Is there also neoliberalisation of PPGIS in terms of how it operates? This is an open question.

the third session 2453 Looking Backwards and Forwards in Participatory GIS: Session III included the following

Kumkum Bhattacharyya – Eastern Michigan University, Aditi Sarkar – Indian Statistical Institute – Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) Change Detection in the Ganga-Damodar Region – A Participatory GIS Perspective, which covered participation at government scale, in water and resources management.

Pamela Jean Robinson – Ryerson University and Peter Johnson – Waterloo – Civic Hackthons: New Terrain for Citizen-Local Government Interaction? They been looking at civic hackathons – the empowerment of local communities and their meaning. civic Hackathons are linked to the concept of open data – they are time-limited event (weekend), mix of people – lots of people who can code, with open data and prizes and government host. People work to create the data into play. There is a difference between the civic hackathons and app competition is very different. Are they a form of procurement – are they getting a product outside the usual processes and did the events led to change in government activities? Secondly there is the issue of citizen engagement. In terms of backdoor procurement – is it getting technology for free? Are they get products without proper scrutiny? People have mixed view if open data will improve accountability and processes. Are people exploited and fairly compensating for software development effort? Are there obligations for government to treat people differently?
Civic hacking is new form of civic engagement (Levitas 2013). They went to core values of public participation as defined (core values for the practice of public participation). In hackathon people decide and design how they want to participate and have the information. This is one-off event so how impactful it is. Early finding from researching with government that done hackathon. Actually, there are no products coming out of them and very little procurement happening because sustainability of app development is an issue. There is no concern within participants about virtual sweatshops, but there are concerns in the terms of employment of the municipal staff who spend big part of the weekend on this activity. In terms of engagement, the most important aspect is new space for interaction between municipal staff and community. Different kinds of sharing expertise. What do hackathons mean over time and they are developing hackathon assessment tools. How you have ethics form so it doesn’t kill the process.

Nancy J. Obermeyer, PhD, GISP – Indiana State Univ – Preserving Small Town Cinemas through Crowdsourcing. Nancy talked about how using kickstarter to community asset. The town Batesville, IN is small – 6500 people, Germanic roots. Have industrial history – furniture, medical equipment etc. The Gibson Theatre was around from the 1920s, in small towns, the relationships are familial and know people personally. There was a kickstarter campaign to preserve the place, and they reached out to news stations and that helped them to raise the funding. One of the emerging question in the discussion is the degree of ‘crowdfunding’ community assets, and the abdication of local and national government from protecting and funding heritage – another form of neoliberalisation in which the communities are left to fend for themselves, and because of inequalities, it’s the people without major financial assets who are expected to volunteer their income to such services.

Zachary A. Jones, MA, MS, PhD (ABD) – Eastern Michigan University Using Charrettes and other Pedagogical Tools to Develop Participatory Geospatial Technology Plans and Support Ecojustice Planning Decisions. Using technology in master planing and find a way to education and group pedagogy -and avoid reliance on mechanism and scientism. The knowledge base is usaully of experts, but local stakeholders have lots ofknowledge and there are people without voices – children, non-humans. Sophistication level necessary for GIS operation is high and only small group of experts can use it – surely not general population. A consortium of municipalities (SEMCOG) doesn’t have geospatial information and technology plan as part of their master plans. Growing reliance on GIS and geographic technologies in decision-making creased a deficit for local stakeholders. Would like to adopt PGIS to democratise geospatial information collection and use. Borrow tools for educators and planners -lesson plans (to deal with deficit thinking) and charrettes to encourage decision-making by community members, and expect that to be run by municipalities. Aim to run workshops that explore issues and technologies. Initial sessions explored expectation from PGIS and where it fails. That will be followed by the need to address concepts – master plans, feed of information act, privacy issues, Geographic Information Technologies plan.

Antonello Romano – DISPOC, Università di Siena – Noise busters: noise detection and perception through citizen science approach and crowdsourced information. Exploring gamification of experience about noise in the city aim to increase user contribution. The idea is to put gamification to engage people in problem solving. The aim is to improve data collection – game your place. not to emphasise the competition but to have the playfulness. The objective is to encourage participation and collect data about loudness pollution – used NoiseTube to do data collection. The basic elements are to create the game board, game rule, finding a way to create a situation that everyone win. Game elements are trying to encourage participation and not about the observation itself. The first results – they had 123,500 measurement and 28h of data collection in a week. The geography of games covered the whole city centre. A closer look at the data show level of noise across the area. Highlighting the participatory layer: everyday life, participation, VGI, sociability, problem solving and discovering places.

Finally we had a panel session 2553 Looking Backwards and Forwards in Participatory GIS: Session IV, including Bandana Kar (Chair), and Renee Sieber, Nancy J. Obermeyer, Melinda J. Laituri and myself as panellists.

Renee started the discussion – PPGIS past, present and future, and using a definition which we had many discussion that complexify every aspect of it – is it about marginalised people or increase participation? Skills and abilities continue to be challenges for practitioners. You need to be system admin and developer to run system and maintain them. There is also a numbers game – how many people are involved? Also Social Darwinism – if you can’t deal with the system, it is your problem and we can’t help. PPGIS is seen as effeminate participation compared to proper masculinity in VGI and crowdsourcing. Losing sight of boundaries that matter – such as jurisdictions.

Nancy Obermeyer, students understand that they need GIS knowledge and expertise. GIS is poorly integrated into the curricula of public administration. In public administration and participation – how we get more input from the people that will be effected by the actions that they are making.

Melinda coming from the participatory GIS approach, thinking about fine scale data collection with TEK and indigenous groups – what people want to map and not, how to deal with ethics and what should be mapped. The relationships with the community are complex – what the impact to the people who change the community and long-term changes. To work with responding to disaster and deal with rapid response and activities like mapathons through Mapgive – learning from the success in Haiti response. We need to unpack that a bit more. We need to look linkage between participatory mapping and remote collaborative mapping. Making digitising fun because of the context and atmosphere. Thinking about VGI/PGIS – this is a different approach but need to explore opportunities. 1. start with a blank map or an image? 2. in experience with state department: academics are fish out of the water – what academics need to figure out with the practice? 3. digital divide – don’t assume access to technology and need to think about that 4. education 5. excitement about data collection – how do we analysed that? how that enrich our information base?

My take own take away from the day where the following:  First, in PPGIS there is always an element of ‘conforming (to) the opposition’ (Renee paper from 2001 is relevant here) – and this is how the external governance structure set the agenda of the processes. Secondly, we need to work beyond individualism & neoliberal framing of citizenship and development: this has clearly gone worse over the past 20 years, so in many ways it is not more difficult to do PPGIS. This also mean that we must position PPGIS within the wider context of technology and society (with issues such as 99% and inequality, prevailing cyberlibertarian modes of thinking in technology products that shape society etc.). We need a more nuanced concept of participation: work hard so all voices are heard – but allow people to ‘delegate’ and not actively participate. Some people will be happy just to attend meeting to check that views are like theirs, and other will happy to trust a friend. We should allow for that. The next thing is that because of Big Data, more attention to the end use of the data, ownership and credits are important signifiers of purpose and values. Finally, because of the way tech companies are hijacking social terms, we need to explicitly define empowerment, inclusion, marginalisation, participation and democratisation.

Piotr Jankowsi mentions the power of numbers. We started doing PPGIS on the premise that the right of people to have a say on decisions that influence their life – that’s what PPGIS is about. We try to facilitate the ability to pass information to those in positions of power. Numbers do matter – between 5, 10 or 2000 people. Those who are in position of power tend to listen to bigger groups. When we facilitate public participation, we need to give an avenue for larger number – in order to make it effective.

Cristina Capineri –  noted the need to recognise changes and the way that we need to understand opinions and values which then opened the door for new ways and methodologies that are being used. when we are mapping we deal with problems and challenges in society and work at hyper local levels.

Peter Johnson – increase focus on separation between science and decision-making, how does that fit into encouraging the public to carry out research and doing the work itself? The general view was that it is working side by side with science – not replacing.  There is also funding and stopping funding to the bits of science that are inoffensive. However, I noted that there is a huge increase in people with higher education, and that does create an issue for decision makers, as the general population is more sophisticated and can use information.

Greg Brown pointed that we must notice the mega-trend is that people are losing civic engagement, we have lost of connection to place and decline and knowledge and connection to place. PPGIS works again these trends.

Bandana Kar – there is marginalisation within the PPGIS community, we should keep links. Though it might outlast GIScience.

Piotr – part of the problem with civic engagement is lack of impact. People participate but see no outcomes and they don’t feel that they see the impact. Something need to be done with the results. Greg – need to see the process and the outcomes, and people need to see how the outcomes of the process are based on the consultation.

Mike McCall – there is participation fatigue that growing, and we need to ask question about representativeness which can be manipulated by those involved. Who is selected (even deciding women participation) is important. Using individual maps is different from the community mapping. Can do snowball mapping where the size is growing with each maps. Another point is that starting with a blank map is that people mark their territory, and within it. Satellite or image can be used in suitable context when they are relevant – need to consider context.

Finally, a question was raised to what extent questions are rising from the communities themselves?