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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The data was downloaded February 2015. The full history dumps contain the database including the edit history (all objects in all versions) http://planet.osm.org/planet/full-history/ (27/04/2016).

  2. 2.

    http://wikimapia.org/stats/action_stats/?fstat=6&period=3&year=2009&month=6 (27/04/2016). This figure represents only the number of user accounts. The number of active users is, like in other crowdsourcing projects, much smaller.

  3. 3.

    http://wikimapia.org/stats/action_stats/?fstat=101&period=3&year=2009&month=6 (27/04/2016).

  4. 4.

    http://wikimapia.org/docs/Community (27/04/2016).

  5. 5.

    Movable objects can be added if they “are unmovable at least for a week and staying still at the moment of adding” http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=49.589700&lon=11.003900&z=12&m=b&show=/user/tools/guidelines/ (27/04/2016).

  6. 6.

    http://wikimapia.org/#lang=de&lat=31.540000&lon=35.090000&z=13&m=b&search=hebron (27/04/2016).

  7. 7.

    http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&show=/15098384 (27/04/2016).

  8. 8.

    http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=52.365862&lon=4.954684&z=18&m=b&show=/6811920/graffiti-allowed-area-under-the-bridge (27/04/2016).

  9. 9.

    http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=31.793555&lon=35.235901&z=12&m=b&show=/8452050/Jerusalem (27/04/2016).

  10. 10.

    The data was downloaded February 2015. Unfortunately, the API does not allow access to linear features.

  11. 11.

    http://www.jiis.org (27/04/2016).

  12. 12.

    These districts include areas like parks, commercial areas or the governmental district. They could arguably likewise be added to Jewish areas because they all belong to the western part of the city on the Israeli side of the green line.

  13. 13.

    One major exception is the airport and industrial park area of Atarot in the north of Jerusalem. Functionally knit to the Jewish part of the city, the uninhabited area has been integrated into an aggregate statistical area dominantly populated by Arab people.

  14. 14.

    It should be noted that the presented population figures are not equal to the statistical figures of the different ethno-religious groups, but only refer to the inhabitants of the respectively classified statistical areas. Still, the proportions between the grouped statistical areas resemble official Israeli statistics (Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (2013).

  15. 15.

    While the data of this analysis includes more than 33,000 OSM ways (in addition to an even higher number of nodes) intersecting Jerusalem, there are less than 3,000 places in Wikimapia.

  16. 16.

    The vast majority of the tag-values are numeric (e.g. house numbers) or in Latin alphabet (mostly in English language), which is not surprising because the OSM tagging scheme is widely internationally standardized.

  17. 17.

    An exception is the industrial and airport district Atarot (see footnote 13) which has been mapped densely.

  18. 18.

    The 15th user could be identified as a bot.

  19. 19.

    http://forum.openstreetmap.org/viewtopic.php?id=53681 (27/04/2016).

  20. 20.

    http://forum.openstreetmap.org/viewtopic.php?id=32248 (27/04/2016).

  21. 21.

    http://www.openstreetmap.org/user/JAT86/diary/36222 (27/04/2016).

  22. 22.

    Waze is a navigation application for smartphones that is optimized by crowdsourced information and social media. It was bought by Google in 2013.

  23. 23.

    At the time of writing, there are about 22,000 daily waze users in Tel Aviv, compared to 10,000 in London (note the cities’ differing population sizes), 3100 in Madrid, 200 in Berlin or 500 in Moscow (http://wazestats.com/active.php; 27/04/2016).

  24. 24.

    There is no specific English section, yet 13 general sections are in English language, containing in sum thousands of English threads and posts.

  25. 25.

    The Russian forum section contains 1344 topics, Arabic 279, Italian 48, German 38 French 34 and Hebrew 3 (27/04/2016).

  26. 26.

    https://hotosm.org/ (27/04/2016).

  27. 27.

    I specifically thank one of the anonymous reviewers for raising my attention to possibilities of remote mapping and of power structures within the mapping communities.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Bittner, C. Diversity in volunteered geographic information: comparing OpenStreetMap and Wikimapia in Jerusalem. GeoJournal 82, 887–906 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-016-9721-3

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Keywords

  • Volunteered geographic information (VGI)
  • Wikimapia
  • OpenStreetMap
  • Geoweb
  • Cartographic modes