Volunteered geographic information and networked publics? Politics of everyday mapping and spatial narratives
The issue of a changing public that undertakes and underpins Volunteered geographic information (VGI) practices has not been discussed in depth in the existing literature. This paper seeks to tackle this issue of publics regarding the intersection between VGI and public participation GIS. I draw upon the notion of “networked publics” to illustrate the complexities of social relations intersecting with VGI practices. Networked publics involve a connected set of social and technological developments associated with the growing engagement with digitally connected media. Networked publics embody several major characteristics including multiple memberships spanning over vast locations and possibilities for horizontal connections and bottom-up engagements. I argue that the emergence and proliferation of VGI reflect the major characteristics of networked publics. Through two examples of VGI constructions in China, I depict types of networked publics involved in these processes. I show that the mutual constitution of networked publics and sociopolitical and technological transformations has produced new landscapes of civic engagement in China. I also show the limits and challenges of these VGI practices in this context. As such, this study contributes to the efforts of theorizing the geoweb through conceptualizing and foregrounding these new forms of social relations and interactions engaging with VGI practices, which in turn may entail new forms of knowledge production and politics.
KeywordsVolunteered geographic information (VGI) Networked publics Network culture China
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