Volunteered Geographic Information, the Exaflood, and the Growing Digital Divide

  • Daniel SuiEmail author
  • Michael Goodchild
  • Sarah Elwood


The phenomenon of volunteered geographic information is part of a profound transformation on how geographic data, information, and knowledge are produced and circulated. This chapter begins by situating this transition within the broader context of an “exaflood” of digital data growth. It considers the implications of VGI and the exaflood for further time-space compression and new forms and degrees of digital inequality. We then give a synoptic overview of the content of this edited collection and its three-part structure: VGI, public participation, and citizen science; geographic knowledge production and place inference; and emerging applications and new challenges. We conclude this chapter by discussing the renewed importance of geography and the role of crowdsourcing for geographic knowledge production.


Latent Dirichlet Allocation Geographic Data Digital Divide Volunteer Geographic Information Spatial Data Infrastructure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Ball, M. (2011). How do crowdsourcing, the internet of things and big data converge on geospatial technology? Accessed January 22, 2012.
  2. Bennett, J. (2010). OpenStreetMap. Birmingham: Packt Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar
  3. Bryan, J. (2010). Force multipliers: Geography, militarism, and the Bowman expeditions. Political Geography, 29(8), 414–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cairncross, F. (1995). The death of distance. Economist, 336(7934), 5–6 (30 September).Google Scholar
  5. CORDIS (2010). Riding the wave: How Europe can gain from the rising tide of scientific data.Final report of the high level expert group on scientific data.
  6. de Laat, P. B. (2010). How can contributors to open-source communities be trusted? On the assumption, inference, and substitution of trust. Ethics of Information Technology, 12(4), 327–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Elkus, A. (2011). Hurricane Irene: GIS, social media, and big data shine. Accessed January 11, 2012
  8. Elwood, S. (2008a). Volunteered geographic information: Key questions, concepts and methods to guide emerging research and practice. GeoJournal, 72(3/4), 133–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Elwood, S. (2008b). Volunteered geographic information: Future research directions motivated by critical, participatory, and feminist GIS. GeoJournal, 72, 173–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Engler, N. J., & Hall, G. B. (2007). The Internet, spatial data globalization, and data use: The case of Tibet. The Information Society, 23, 345–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Feick, R. D., & Roche, S. (2010). Introduction (to special issue on VGI). Geomatica, 64(1), 5–6.Google Scholar
  12. Francica, J. (2011). Big data and why you should care. Accessed January 21, 2012.
  13. Gantz, J., & Reinsel, D. (2011). Extracting value from chaos. Accessed January 21, 2012.
  14. Genovese, E., & Roche, S. (2010). Potential of VGI as a resource for SDIs in the North/South context. Geomatica, 64(4), 439–450.Google Scholar
  15. Gilbert, M., & Masucci, M. (2011). Information and communication technology geographies: Strategies for bridging the digital divide. Vancouver: Praxis (e) Press – University of British Columbia.Google Scholar
  16. Goodchild, M. F. (2007). Citizens as sensors: The world of volunteered geography. GeoJournal, 69(4), 211–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gordon, E., & de Souza e Silva, A. (2011). Net locality: Why location matters in a networked world. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gore, A. (1999). The digital earth: Understanding our planet in the 21st century. Accessed February 16, 2012.Google Scholar
  19. Gould, P. (1999). Becoming a geographer. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Graham, M. (2011). Time machines and virtual portals: The spatialities of the digital divide. Progress in Development Studies, 11(3), 211–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hall, B. G., Chipeniuk, R., Feick, R. D., Leahy, M. G., & Deparday, V. (2010). Community-based production of geographic information using open source software and Web 2.0. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 24(5), 761–781.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hayes, C. (2012). Geospatial and big data: The challenge of leveraging constantly evolving Information. Presentation during 2012 Defense Geospatial Intelligence (DGI), London, January 24, 2012.Google Scholar
  23. Hecht, B., & Moxley, E. (2009). Terabytes of Tobler: Evaluating the first law in a massive, domain-neutral representation of world knowledge. In COSIT’09 Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Spatial Information Theory (pp. 88–105). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  24. Interagency Working Group on Digital Data (IWGDD) (2009). Harnessing the power of digital data for science and society.
  25. Kessler, F. (2011). Volunteered geographic information: A bicycling enthusiast perspective. Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 38(3), 258–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Killpack, C. (2011). Big data, bigger opportunity.–18–26%20Cover%20Story.pdf. Accessed January 31, 2012.Google Scholar
  27. MacIve, K. (2010). Google chief Eric Schmidt on the data explosion. Accessed February 16, 2012.
  28. MacKinnon, R. (2012). Consent of the networked: The worldwide struggle for Internet freedom. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  29. Manyika, J., Chui, M., Brown, B., Bughin, J., Dobbs, R., Roxburgh, C., & Byers, A. H. (2011). Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity.
  30. Meek, D. (2011). YouTube and social movements: A phenomenological analysis of participation, events, and cyberplace. In Antipode. Epub ahead of print. Accessed January 4, 2012. doi: 10.1111/j.1467–8330.2011.00942.x Google Scholar
  31. Merrifield, A. (2011). Crowd politics: Or, ‘Here Comes Everybuddy’. New Left Review, 71, 103–114.Google Scholar
  32. Milgram, S. (1967). The small world problem. Psychology Today, 2, 60–67.Google Scholar
  33. Miller, H. J. (2010). The data avalanche is here: Shouldn’t we be digging? Journal of Regional Science, 50, 181–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Newman, G., Zimmerman, D., Crall, A., Laituri, M., Graham, J., & Stapel, L. (2010). User-friendly web mapping: Lessons from a citizen science website. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 24(12), 1851–1869.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Newsam, S. (2010). Crowdsourcing what is where: Community-contributed photos as volunteered geographic information. IEEE Multimedia, 17(4), 36–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Obe, R., & Hsu, L. (2011). PostGIS in action. Stamford: Manning Publications.Google Scholar
  37. Ramm, F., & Topf, J. (2010). OpenStreetMap: Using and enhancing the free map of the world. Cambridge: UIT Cambridge Ltd.Google Scholar
  38. Rana, S., & Joliveau, T. (2009). Neogeography: An extension of mainstream geography for everyone made by everyone? Journal of Location Based Services, 3(2), 75–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Roche, S., Propeck-Zimmermann, E., & Mericskay, B. (2011). GeoWeb and crisis management: Issues and perspectives of volunteered geographic information. GeoJournal, Epub ahead of print. Accessed January 4, 2012. doi: 10.1007/s10708–011–9423–9.Google Scholar
  40. Shirkey, C. (2006). Power laws, weblogs, and inequality. In J. Dean, J. W. Anderson, & G. Lovink (Eds.), Reformatting politics (pp. 35–42). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  41. Swanson, B. (2007). The coming exaflood. Wall Street Journal (January 20). Accessed March 1, 2010.Google Scholar
  42. The Economist (2003). The revenge of geography. Google Scholar
  43. Travers, J., & Milgram, S. (1969). An experimental study of the small world problem. Sociometry, 32, 425–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Warf, B. (2008). Time-space compression: Historical geographies. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  45. Warf, B. (2010). Uneven geographies of the African Internet: Growth, change, and implications. African Geographical Review, 29(2), 41–66.Google Scholar
  46. Warf, B. (2011). Geographies of global Internet censorship. GeoJournal, 76(1), 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Warf, B., & Sui, D. (2010). From GIS to neogeography: Ontological implications and theories of truth. Annals of GIScience, 26(4), 197–209.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of California at Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

Personalised recommendations