, Volume 82, Issue 5, pp 887–906 | Cite as

Diversity in volunteered geographic information: comparing OpenStreetMap and Wikimapia in Jerusalem

  • Christian BittnerEmail author


While the term “volunteered geographic information” (VGI) has become a buzzword in debates on the geoweb, online cartography and digital geoinformation, the scope and reach of VGI remains underexplored. Drawing on literature on social implications of VGI, this article, firstly, explores differences between VGI initiatives at the example of a comparative case study on social biases within data of OSM and Wikimapia in the fragmented social setting of Jerusalem, Israel. The results of this analysis turn out to be highly contradictive between both projects, which challenges widely accepted assumptions on the imprint of social inequalities and digital divides on VGI. This observation guides, secondly, a discussion of diversity within the category of VGI. Arguing that mapping communities, data formats and knowledge types behind VGI are extremely dissimilar, the paper proceeds by questioning the consistency and utility of VGI as a category. Seeking for a more comprehensive typology of VGI, Edney’s notion of cartographic modes will be presented as an approach towards a more contextualized understanding of VGI projects by embracing their underlying cultural, social and technical relations. Consequently, the paper suggests empirical research on the cartographic modes of a broad series of VGI projects through qualitative and quantitative methods alike.


Volunteered geographic information (VGI) Wikimapia OpenStreetMap Geoweb Cartographic modes 



This research was funded by the German Research Foundation. The author would like to acknowledge and thank Tim Elrick, the two anonymous reviewers as well as the editor for their detailed and helpful comments.

Compliance with ethical standards

The research for this article followed the accepted principles of ethical and professional conduct and is not raising any potential conflicts of interest (financial or non-financial). The research did not involve human participants directly and all information about usernames from the data analyses in the paper has been anonymised.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-NürnbergErlangenGermany

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