, Volume 83, Issue 2, pp 237–255 | Cite as

Using Volunteered Geographic Information to measure name changes of artificial geographical features as a result of political changes: a Libya case study

  • Ahmed Ahmouda
  • Hartwig H. Hochmair


Over the past few years, political systems have changed in several countries of the Middle East as a result of citizen revolutions on the ruling regimes. These geopolitical changes have had effects on the names of artificial geographical features, such as roads and schools. Many of the names, especially those that were associated with previous regimes, were changed to become associated with the revolutions, their dates, their leaders, or their martyrs. The recent change in the paradigm of Web use towards data sharing and crowd-sourcing in the Web 2.0 provides new opportunities to get insight into a local community’s perception of political events. Crowd-sourced spatial data, often referred to as Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI), can be contributed and accessed through various websites and data repositories. These data can supplement traditional data sources, such as road maps hosted by governmental offices. Libya’s governmental maps of urban infrastructure are scarce and incomplete. This provides an incentive for citizens and grassroots groups to collect and generate spatial data on their own and to express changed realities of feature names by the means of crowd-sourced mapping. Using two districts in Libya this study evaluates for five Web 2.0 platforms (OpenStreetMap, Wikimapia, Google Map Maker, Panoramio, and Flickr) to which extent VGI reflects name changes of geographical features as a result of the revolution in 2011. Other data sources, such as school directories posted by teachers on Facebook, serve as additional information for feature name change detection. Results show that the extent to which VGI reflects name changes based on the 2011 revolution in Libya varies strongly between VGI data sources. VGI provides a useful supplement to limited governmental resources to better understand how names of artificial geographical features are affected by changes in political systems.


Volunteered Geographic Information Web 2.0 Name change Crowd-sourcing Political change Libya 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights

This chapter does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geomatics Program, Fort Lauderdale Research and Education CenterUniversity of FloridaFort LauderdaleUSA

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