COST ENERGIC meeting – Tallinn 21-22 May

TallinnThe COST Energic network is progressing in its 3rd year. The previous post showed one output from the action – a video that describe the links between volunteered geographic information and indigenous knowledge.

The people who came to the meeting represent the variety of interest in crwodsourced geographic information, from people with background in Geography, Urban planning, and many people with interest in computing – from semantic representation of information, cloud computing, data mining and similar issues where VGI represent an ‘interesting’ dataset.

Part of the meeting focused on the next output of the network, which is an Open Access book which is titled ‘European Handbook of Crowdsourced Geographic Information’. The book will be made from short chapters that are going through peer-review by people within the network. The chapters will cover topics such as theoretical and social aspects, quality – criteria and methodologies, data analysis and finally applied research and case studies. We are also creating a combined reference list that will be useful for researchers in the field. There will be about 25 chapters. Different authors gave a quick overview of their topics, with plenty to explore – from Smart Cities to concepts on the nature of information.

COST ‘actions’ (that’s how these projects are called), operate through working groups. In COST Energic, there are 3 working groups, focusing on human and societal issues,  Spatial data Quality and infrastructures, and Data mining, semantics and VGI.

Working Group 1 looked at an example of big data from Alg@line –  22 years of data of ferry data from the Baltic sea – with 17 millions observations a year. Data from  that can be used for visualisation and exploring the properties. Another case study that the working group consider is the engagement of schoolchildren and VGI – with activities in Portugal, Western Finland, and Italy. These activities are integrating citizen science and VGI, and using free and open source software and data. In the coming year, they are planning specific activities in big data and urban planning and crowd atlas on urban biodiversity.

Working Group 2 have been progressing in its activities linking VGI quality with citizen science, and how to produce reliable information from it. The working group collaborate with another COST action (TD1202) which called ‘Mapping and the Citizen Sensor‘. They carried out work on topics of quality of information – and especially with vernacular gazetteers. In their forthcoming activities, they contribute to ISSDQ 2015 (international symposium on spatial data quality) with a set of special sessions. Future work will focus on quality tools and quality visualisation.

Prof. Cristina Capineri opening the meeting
Prof. Cristina Capineri opening the meeting

Working Group 3 also highlighted the ISSDQ 2015 and will have a good presence in the conference. The group aims to plan a hackathon in which people will work on VGI, with a distributed event for people to work with data over time. Another plan is to focus on research around the repository. The data repository from the working group – contains way of getting of data and code. It’s mostly how to get at the data.

There is also a growing repository of bibliography on VGI in CiteULike. The repository is open to other researchers in the area of VGI, and WG3 aim to manage it as a curated resource. 


The Tube Map

tubemappdf

The Tube Map is probably London’s most famous contemporary map. We’ve featured numerous alternative tube maps but have never featured the official map itself in over 200 posts so far on Mapping London. The famous map, with its 45 degree turns, sea of colours and geometric simplicity, has been around since 1931 when Harry Beck famously realised that showing the strict geographic route that the lines take is not necessary, as the area between stations is not one you can move freely around in, when travelling on the system. Removing the geographic link allowed the complex central section of the network to be greatly enlarged, making connections across Zone 1 London easier.

Since then, the map has been refined many times, but the basic idea has remained the same. Londoners really care about their map, its evolution has always been a big deal. When the River Thames got removed from the map a few years ago, there was an uproar and the Mayor intervened. It returned a few days later. It’s probably the most abundant map in the capital, thanks to multiple copies appearing at every tube station, and free pocket-sized versions available there for people to take away. Most visitors will probably have picked up a copy.

At the end of this month, the tube map* will see one of its biggest changes, as over 30 new stations get added to the map. TfL is taking over various new lines in north-east London, and rebranding them as part of its Overground network (shown in orange). It is also taking over a further line, and giving it an interim blue “TfL Rail” brand. This will, in time, turn purple and become part of Crossrail, in 2018.

So, this big expansion of the map seemed like a good excuse to finally feature it here on Mapping London. Above is an extract of the PDF version, there is also an SVG version (extract below) which TfL uses for showing disruption information on their website, it has a couple of bugs, so I’ve fixed them up on a shell website here. The SVG version is nice because it allows a lot of flexibility in its display – in the example link here I’m animating the “Rominster” line over in the east. However it doesn’t include a key, special station notes or zonal information. You can download the PDF version although this link is subject to change. There is also a canonical link, which doesn’t yet show the new services.

tubemapsvg

*None of the new additions are actually tube lines, so the Tube Map has become a map of most of the TfL-owned rail services – Tube, Overground, TfL Rail, DLR and Cable Car, although notably not Tramlink. The tube lines themselves are next likely to change in 2018-20, with the Northern Line extension and the Metropolitan Line Watford rerouting.

The Tube Map is Copyright Transport for London.

Smart Cities by Anthony Townsend: A Review

TOWNSEND-bOOK

Asked by Built Environment to review this some 18 months after it was first published, the world of smart cities has moved on so fast at the level of how we use personal devices to navigate, shop, search etc. that Anthony Townsend has included a new Epilogue in the paperback edition. I commented on the book back in 2013 but here is my full review which I hope those interested in smart cities will read. It’s printed below here – you don’t need to log onto anywhere. It will come out in due course in the Journal – doubtless – but it is a great and readable book if you haven’t come across it before.

The REVIEW

Anthony M. Townsend: Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, W. W. Norton Inc., New York, ISBN-978-0-393-082867-6 hardcover; ISBN-978-0-393-34978-8 pbk

Cities are highly counter-intuitive places and the smart city especially so. I have worked with computers and cities all my life from the days when we built mathematical models and punched out the code on paper tape, took it to the computer centre where operators in white coats ran the programs, and then we went back a day later to get the output. 50 years on the world has turned many times as computers have now become embedded in everything we do but they still seek to amaze. The fact that they are now being embedded extensively in cities, in public places, is still a surprise to me, and when they get embedded into ourselves as they surely will, it will be even more of a drama as that cyborg world begins to descend on us. What we still use to manipulate the world – our computer models – is now being composed of those very computers we use to understand it and this raises all the paradoxes of using machines to understand themselves. This in and of itself is a strange kind of recursive reality, a mirror world that threatens to continually confuse our perceptions

But back to the here and now and how these new technologies are changing many things that we do in cities and everyday life. On my way to Dallas, Texas where I am writing this review, everything seemed to be more automated than on my last US trip 4 months ago. Buying a drink in the United Terminal in Newark, I sat at a table and brought up a screen on the iPad in front of me, part of the table, that let me select the drink I wanted. I swiped my card across the top and then the interface asked me if I wanted to pay in Air Miles or in real – well hardly real any more –credit. In fact the drink was delivered by a human and I was mightily impressed by the range of drinks on offer. Where they poured them in the restaurant I could not imagine – not at the bar as I couldn’t see the beer pumps anywhere – but what I had was rather a good draft micro-brewed pint. When I got to Dallas, a cab or posh SUV rolled by as it was midnight and asked if I needed a taxi. It was in fact an Uber moonlighting – I didn’t have the APP to call it – but it drove me the 27 miles through the sprawl to my hotel where I paid again by swiping the credit card on the iPad attachment, the receipt being sent to my email account that I checked immediately on my phone and sent on to our administrator back home in London.

Now none of this was in existence when Anthony Townsend first published his book on Smart Cities less than 2 years ago. The iPad was around but people had barely begun to attach credit card readers to them and use the device as a mobile office and sales portal. Anthony, who is at the cutting edge of all this new information technology, did not know this either but he was well aware of the speed of change as smart cities roll out in ever more unexpected ways. In a new Epilogue at the end of the book says: “With smart cities, trends that only recently appeared small on the horizon now loom larger and larger. Everything seems to be speeding up, getting bigger, or getting worse than was expected.” (page 322)

Smart cities have been around for a long time. In the 1980s, the term being used was ‘wired cities’ after James Martin’s famous book The Wired Society (Prentice hall, 1978) where the focus was on how cable, telephones and other wired media were changing our access to services. Once fibre optic networks emerged and computers converged with telecommunications through local and wider area networks, a succession of terms pertinent to how computers were proliferating in terms of cities followed in rapid succession: information cities, virtual cities, intelligent cities, digital cities, and so on. Smart cities appear to emanate from smart growth – growth which sees a degree of sustainability but the term is really the penchant of Americans who make use of the word smart in a much wider sense than in the classical English usage. In this sense, it originates in the notion that computation is becoming smart in terms of artificial intelligence, although there is very considerable debate about this as there has been since the inception of digital computers themselves.

To the book itself then. Smart Cities is a roller coaster read of the history and future of the smart cities movement. Townsend positively drives the reader to think about the wider implications of smart city technologies for understanding our cities better on the one hand – through a new city science for example – to building new forms of urban governance and planning for the citizen on the other hand. This is a book that, in his own words, charts the evolution of smart cities as the author has seen them being built from the ‘trenches’, so-to-speak. It is a book that is written not by a computer scientist who has come to cities with an armoury of tools and models in search of a problem, but by someone who knows a lot about the history of cities and planning and is able to put all this in context. This is why the book must be read by planners as much as by modellers and systems people, why the messages it portrays are so important to know how to respond to this great wave of technology that is sweeping over society and is inclined to sweep both good and old things away as much as to engender the shock of the new.

Townsend begins his book with several overviews of how cities function in society. What I like about this is that fact that he sees the development of new ideas about future cities and our understanding of them as urban science to be as much a part of smart cities as they are as part of urban studies and planning. He pours scorn on those who have got so worked up about the kinds of new cities that are being invented by the CISCOs and IBMs of this world – Songdu in Korea, Masdar in UAE and so on – because he does not see them as relating in any way to what real cities are all about. He then goes on to chart the development of computer models and cybernetic thinking in cities which started 50 years ago, talking about our earlier experiences with the top-down systems approach and how this has now been replaced with thinking about cities as complex systems, as systems that evolve from the bottom up. The message here is that we intervene in such complex systems at our peril and in this way he implies that the truly smart city would evolve and adapt technologies consistent with the way they grow naturally, slowly, one at a time, sensitively and calmly. The idealised smart cities like Songdu are not unlike the ideal cities of the past, but they are not the new towns or garden cities of a by-gone era which were developed in a much more natural fashion than these idealised electronic paradises that the large computer companies are now using as examples of the smart city. His arguments in this early part of the book invokes Jane Jacobs, Patrick Geddes and many others who argued that cities need conservative surgery, not radical impositions of new technologies that rarely work once implemented.

What is revealing about his book is that he brings information technologies down to earth. He talks about what happens when we make more of it visible by digging up the wires in the roads, by developing wireless ways of doing things, how hackers working from the bottom up are developing quick and dirty and not so quick fixes for ways of developing new city software, of new developments such as APPS, of how mobile devices are enabling us to build a degree of smartness in our cities from the bottom up. In the book, he explains how new systems are evolving such as ways of sharing travel that are entirely consistent with new information technologies, and how urban applications are improving the quality of urban travel. He also does not forget the urban poor and how these groups are being locked out of smart city technologies but also how such technologies are enabling groups to work with each other from the bottom up. And last but not least, he talks of the renaissance of City Hall, through new departments dealing with improved running of urban services again through lots of new software and APPs that keep the governors and the governed in touch with one another. But he also paints a downside to all this smartness – in terms of the way confidentiality might be breached, the way systems might be hacked, and hence destroyed or abused, and the way new kinds of technology are hard to join together.

The smart city according to Townsend is not a seamless web of integrated and joined-up technologies and his message is that it probably never will be, much to the chagrin of those whose mission is to make technologies interoperable. What he does at the end of his book is provide a program for making cities smart, almost an instruction manual as to how we might all approach making our environment more liveable and functional and equitable through new technologies. In his last chapter, he has thirteen messages for how we should proceed and it is worth concluding this review by stating them. In that chapter which is called ‘A New Civics for a Smart Century’ he says that a collective conversation for this new world should be composed of the following ‘mantras’: Opt In to Smart, Roll Your Own Network, Build a Web – Not an Operating System, Extend Public Ownership, Model Transparently, Fail Gracefully, Build Locally – Trade Globally, Cross-Train Designers, Think Long Term in Real Time, Crowdsource with Care, Connect Everyone, Do Sound Urban Science, and Slow Data.

Townsend would not expect you to agree with all these but it is refreshing to think that we should approach smart cities in this way. What could easily have been a book about arcane techniques of computer science, urban analytics, big data and how we might produce the seamless interoperability that so many assume is the smart city, is in fact a readable overview of a fast moving field which in many ways is part of the much wider web of knowledge that pertains to cities and urban planning. It is absolutely essential in Townsend’s view (and my own) that smart cities should not be explored as something new or different, for they are intimately connected to the wider knowledge that we have of how we can understand and plan our urban world.

The smart city is in many senses the contemporary city for cities change from the bottom up and thus new and smart technologies are closely woven into this fabric. Computers are of course universal machines but once that are implanted into specific contexts they are no longer universal in the sense of being programmable for any purpose. Thus it is the city that becomes the universal machine composed of many intelligent and not so intelligent parts of which computers are but one. At the very dawn of computing, Alan Turing himself was the first person to demonstrate that the digital computer was a universal machine, and far-sighted men such as Vannevar Busch argued as early as 1945, that eventually we would have access to a variety of different personal devices which would offer us undreamed of computational power. In this sense, the smart city is the modern day realisation of this quest for universality. In the last decade, computers have left the lab completely and now most of them are personal devices with much of their circuitry being installed in the human and material fabric around us. Computers are being installed everywhere in public environments to control, monitor and manage the public domain. If we can envisage this kind of embedding of computation everywhere, then there is the prospect of us becoming ‘smarter’ in managing our environments. Whether this will be the case or not is the great open question raised by the smart cities movement and Anthony Townsend’s book is the first to address it. The smart city gives us the opportunity to plan our cities better and Townsend’s book tells us why. It is essential reading for all urban planners and those who profess to be part of the great quest to improve the liveability of our cities.

Michael Batty, CASA, University College London
21 May 2015

 

12: Excellence

I was Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council for 6 years up to December 2013. Like the other research councils, and like most universities, we always said that we funded research that is ‘excellent’ and ‘world class’. However, … Continue reading

VGI and indigenous knowledge – COST Energic Video

The COST Energic network has been running now for 3 years, and one of the outputs from the network is the video below, which explore a very valuable form of Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI). This is information that is coming from participatory projects between researchers and indigenous communities, and this short film provide examples from Bolivia, British Columbia, and the Congo Basin, where researchers in the network are working with local communities to collect information about their areas and issues that concern them.

The video was produced by Lou del Bello, and include some stock photos and footage. The images that are marked with titles are from COST Energic Activities. Lou has also created a short video on the work of the Extreme Citizen Science group in her report on Mapping the Congo on SciDev

The video is released just before a meeting of the COST Network, held in Tallinn, and hosted by the Interaction Design Lab of Tallinn University.


Cities in a Completely Urbanised World

urban1

By the end of this century, we will all be living in Cities but what does this really mean? I have given various talks and written various editorials on this prospect but have never really thought much about what this actually means on the ground. Will we all live in lots of really big cities or all one massive planetary city or will we be spaced out on the earth’s surface, connected by the latest communications technologies and living in a kind of decentralised pattern that is more reminiscent of Toffler’s electronic cottage and E. M Forster’s image of us all living isolated but remotely connected lives in his short story The Machine Stops published in 1909. Well none of these I think. What we do know from our social physics that over the last 200 years, indeed probably over the last 5000, is that our cities are patterned and sized in such a way that they follow a rank-size frequency that means there are very few big cities and very large numbers of small. And we know that this pattern seems to predominate come what may. In fact over the last 50 years, we also note that this rank-size distribution has become flatter with more small cities and less big, somewhat counter to what we might think with all the hype about mega-cities. In this editorial, I explore this prospect and argue that maybe the future will be a little more spread out than we currently imagine. Anyway if you want to read my editorial click here or click on the image above. If you want to see my TEDxLondon talk on this from December 2013, go to YouTube – click here for the video and here for the powerpointand if you want to read my first commentary on this in Environment and Planning A, our sister journal to B, click here.

 

Spatial Conversation – #VGIday #COSTEnergic

The COST Energic network (see VGIBox.eu ) is running a 2 day geolocated twitter chat, titled ‘Volunteered Geographic Information Day’ so the hashtag is #VGIDay. The conversation will take place on 14th and 15th May 2015, and we are universalists – join from anywhere in the world!
Joining is easy – and require 3 steps:

  1. Follow the @COST_Energic profile
  2. Enable your phone to disclose your position – this will allow to geocode your tweets.
  3. To participate to the discussion, use at least one of the dedicated hashtags in tweets: #COSTEnergic, #VGIday

What are we trying to do?

Discussions will be started by @COST_Energic. Through this twitter handle, we will share resources, results and ideas about the topic of VGI and geographic crowdsourcing. You can join the discussions, bring your ideas and links, and involve your contacts, and this will spread this event through the Twittersphere (and beyond?).
At the end of the experiment, we will produce a report of the generated discussion for our ENERGIC repository, and the dataset of tweets can be then used by researchers who want to visaulise, analyse and try to do things with it. It might end up as teaching material, or in IronSheep


General Election Maps for 2015

ge_swingmap

When I first moved to UCL CASA back in 2010, the first online map I created from scratch was one showing swings in the general election that year. So it seemed fitting to update the old code with the data from the 2015 general election, which took place last week. You can see the resulting maps here – use the dropdowns to switch between headline swing, winner, second places, turnout % variations, majorities, political colour and individual party votes and X-to-Y swings.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 15.09.08

My style of Javascript coding back in 2010 was – not great. I didn’t use JQuery or event AJAX, choosing instead to dump the results of the database query straight into the Javascript as the page was loaded in, using PHP. I was also using OpenLayers 2, which required some rather elaborate and unintuitive coding to get the colours/shapes working. My custom background map was also rather ugly looking. You can see what the map looked like in this old blog post. I did a partial tidyup in 2013 (rounded corners, yay!) but kept the grey background and slightly overbearing UI.

Now, in 2015, I’ve taken the chance to use the attractive HERE Maps background map, with some opacity and tinting, and tidied up the UI so it takes up much less of the screen. However, I decided to leave the code as OpenLayers 2 and not AJAX-ify the data load, as it does work pretty well “as is”. The constituency boundaries are now overlaid as a simplified GeoJSON (OL 2 doesn’t handle TopoJSON). For my time map, I was using OL 3 and TopoJSON. Ideally I would combine the two…

Link to the interactive maps.

ge_colourmap

Visit the new oobrien.com Shop
High quality lithographic prints of London data, designed by Oliver O'Brien

Citizen Science and Ethics session (British Ecological Society – Citizen Science SIG)

As part of the activities of the Citizen Science Special Interest Group of the British Ecological Society (BES), Michael Pocock organised “A training event for citizen science: What you need to know, but no one told you!”. I was asked to lead a 30 minutes discussion on ethics and citizen science. This is a wide area, and some discussion about it is already happening.  In addition, there is an emerging working group within the Citizen Science Association (CSA) that will be dedicated to this issue, and I have summarised the session about ethics in the CSA conference in another post.

For the training event, and especially considering that the participants are more likely to be with a background in ecology, I have decided to focus on 4 documents with ‘codes of ethics’ that are the most relevant to ecology & citizen science, with 2 extra for comparison. Three of these are official – the codes of ethics of the Ecological Society of America – (ESA, available here), the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management – (CIEE, available here), the International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE, available here). Finally, the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) principles of citizen science (the latest draft available here). In the comparative group, I used the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of Civil Engineers codes.

What is noticeable in professional codes of ethics (ESA, CIEEM) is that the profession, its reputation and the relationships between members are the top priority. This is common to almost all professional codes of ethics – and it demonstrate that ethics is about self-preservation. Later on, come the responsibility to the other stakeholders, the wider public and to non-humans that the activities can impact. Commonly, wider issues are covered in the principles, or in a preamble, but not within the code itself – although the Royal Geographical Society actually codified  “due regard to the need to protect the environment, human rights, and to ensure efficient use of natural resources” and the Institute of Civil Engineers also codified “due regard for the environment and for the sustainable management of natural resources.”. It is somewhat ironic that ecologists have not codified this aspect.

The two other documents are especially interesting from the point of view of citizen science. First, the ISE code of ethics is not mostly about the researchers and their professional standing, but “to facilitate ethical conduct and equitable relationships, and foster a commitment to meaningful collaboration and reciprocal responsibility by all parties.” it continues with “The fundamental value underlying the Code of Ethics is the concept of mindfulness – a continual willingness to evaluate one’s own understandings, actions, and responsibilities to others. The Code of Ethics acknowledges that biological and cultural harms have resulted from research undertaken without the consent of Indigenous peoples.” and it has a much stronger stance on the duty of care of the researcher as the powerful actor in the situation.

The code is especially relevant in bottom-up citizen science activities, but a lot of it seem to match the concepts behind ECSA principles of citizen science. The principles are calling for a meaningful activities with mutual respect and recognition of the scientists and the volunteers that working with them.

Will the ethics of citizen science evolve along this more inclusive lines, with an understanding that following this will also help to grow and preserve the field as a whole?

 


Colour of Votes: 2015 General Election

colour_votes_jcheshire

There have been many great interactive maps and graphics produced for the 2015 General Election. A map I haven’t seen though is one that attempts to show the relative strength of support for each party in each constituency. This is what the map above seeks to achieve. The principle is simple – you have 3 buckets of paint – one red, one green, one blue – and you mix them together based on the vote share of each party. So a strong Conservative win gets lots of blue paint and relatively little from the other two, whilst split in support across parties will result in a more muddy colour as all three paints get mixed together in similar amounts. As an extra step I also rescaled the size of each area by the number of people who voted there to help show cities, especially London, more clearly.

Of course, this map falls a little short of revealing the most interesting results of the election since they mostly occurred in the green areas. A swing from Lib Dem to SNP, for example, would still warrant mostly green paint since both parties fall in the “Other” category. Instead, I see it as a useful way of showing where support for the Conservatives and Labour was strongest as well as those areas where the results underlying the outcome of the election were far from definitive.

Thanks to Oliver O’Brien for the constituency boundaries and to @ianpatterson99 for pointing me to the results.

A History of Transport Modelling

Boyce-Williams

Certainly one of the best books ever on transport modelling. We have been waiting for this sort of book for a long time. Anyone who wants to figure out the reasons why different kinds of transport model have been developed during the last 60 years must read this book. It starts at the beginning round about 1953 and it brings the field up to date to 2015 covering many different approaches to models from aggregative gravitational to activity-based and on to agent-based but covering equilibrium, assignment and a host of policy issues that have directed the field over several generations of models and model-builders.

What is so good about this book is that it is intelligible and non-mathematical. Stephen Hawking says in his introduction to A Brief History of Time that his publishers advised him that the potential readership of his book would drop by half each time he introduced an algebraic equation into the manuscript, and accordingly it became a best seller. Like Hawking before them, Dave Boyce and Huw Williams are experts in the mathematics of their field, in this case transport, with Dave Boyce making pioneering applications in equilibrium analysis and Huw Williams inventing discrete choice theory in transport modelling in parallel with Ben Akiva, McFadden and others who began to introduce microeconomic foundation to transport in the 1970s. This book however simply explains all this in non-mathematical terms, providing a wonderful historical perspective and really clear exposition of the way different models and methods in the simulation of transport actually work.

I believe that this book should be read by everyone involved in transport modelling. It makes a wonderful companion to Otuzar and Willumsen’s Modelling Transport (Wiley, 2011) that is a technical and mathematical treatment of the field. Of course the publishers have priced it way out of sight and they should be encouraged to offer it much more cheaply as a soft back. It is in fact more modestly priced as as an e-book. But in the meantime, it is well worth getting hold of and making its existence known to all in the field.

Final call for papers on cross-disciplinary stream on mobility and organizing

 
Dear All,
 
We would like to invite you to submit a paper to our cross-disciplinary stream on: ‘Mobility and Organizing in the Global and Local: The space of creation and constraint within, between and beyond organizations.’ More details of the stream are available here.
 
This stream is part of the APROS/EGOS conference (‘Spaces, Constraints, Creativities: Organization and Disorganization’) which will be held in Sydney from the 9th -11th December, 2015. The venue will be the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, which is the first building in Australia designed by Frank Gehry.
 
We are are seeking short paper submissions of between 3,000-4,000 words, to be submitted by Thursday 21st May (Sydney Time), 2015. The word count is inclusive of references, appendices and other material. The outline of the paper should include:
 
– An explanation as to the purpose of the paper
– The theoretical background and the approach
– Empirical papers should identify the methods of analysis
– Authors should also be explicit about how their paper connects with the stream and more broadly to the overall theme of the conference.
 
The web site for submissions has been set up and registrations for the Conference will be open from the 1st February, 2015. Conference paper submissions can be made here.
We look forward to receiving your submissions.
 
Best wishes,
 
Will Harvey, University of Exeter
 

Lecturer post in Geographical Information Science – University of Southampton

 
Lecturer in Geographical Information Science
 
Population, Health & Wellbeing
 
Location: Highfield Campus
Salary: £31,342 to £45,954
Full Time Permanent
Closing Date: Friday 05 June 2015
Interview Date: See advert
Reference: 562415WR
 
We are seeking to appoint an outstanding Lecturer specialising in Geographical Information Science. We particularly invite applications from candidates whose research interests complement those of our Population, Health and Wellbeing (PHeW) research group. We would especially welcome those with GIS skills combined with substantive or methodological research interests in areas such as population, health, environment and Open Source GIS.
 
Be a part of the University of Southampton, an institution in the top 1% of world Universities and one of the UK’s top 15 research intensive universities. We have an international reputation for research, teaching and enterprise activities.
 
You will work in Geography and Environment, a leading international centre for geographical research. The PHeW research theme includes foci on the spatial analysis and modelling of population and population health. More broadly, the academic unit is a leading centre for application of Earth Observation and GIS to a range of environmental and human problems.
 
You will be able to deliver excellent undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and will contribute to and help develop our teaching programme and undertake research in line with the Unit’s research strategy.
 
You will have, or be about to be awarded, a PhD in Geography or a related field (or equivalent professional qualifications), an emerging profile of academic publications and the ability to win external research funding. Undergraduate teaching experience would be advantageous.
 
The post is tenable from 1 September 2015, or as soon as possible thereafter.
 
Informal enquiries may be made to Professor David Martin (Head of PHeW) (0044) (0) 2380 8059 2215 or Professor Stephen Darby (Head of Department) (0044) (0)2380 593779.
 
The closing date for this vacancy is 5 June 2015. Interviews will be held on 1 July.
 
Application procedure:
You should submit your completed online application form at www.jobs.soton.ac.uk. The application deadline will be midnight on the closing date stated above. If you need any assistance, please call Charlene Tyson (Recruitment Team) on +44 (0) 23 8059 6803. Please quote reference 562415WR on all correspondence.

Britain’s Fracturing Political Geography

The imminent UK General Election is fascinating for a host of reasons, not least because of the challenge to the long established dominance of the two main parties, Conservatives and Labour. Their share of the vote has been steadily in decline for over 50 years, from a high of 97% in 1951 to 65% in 2010-

ConLab_GEVoteShareGraphPolls for 2015 indicate that the two main parties are tied at around 33-34%. But the difference in 2015 is that the rise of the smaller parties is going to translate into winning seats, most spectacularly in Scotland with the SNP set to wipe the floor and become the third biggest party in the UK with 50+ seats. There are also likely to be gains for the right wing party UKIP, and possibly for the Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru and the left wing Green Party. The political map of Great Britain will look very different and increasingly fractured, with a coalition or minority government inevitable and essentially becoming the new normal-

Prediction2015_May2015Guardian

2015 General Election predictions from May2015.com (left) and Guardian (right) in cartogram format.

How can we understand this changing political geography? There is a strong tendency towards spatial clustering of similar voting patterns, with votes for minor parties higher further away from the economic and political core of London. This relates to the nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but also to regions like South West England and coastal towns where UKIP and the Greens could pick up seats. There is also a strong geographical element to the division between Labour and Conservative seats, with Labour strongly urban and northern while Conservatives are dominant in more rural areas and in the South East.

In research at CASA we have been using percolation as a method of exploring urban regions at multiple scales, and have a new paper applying percolation to understanding Britain’s political geography (paper by Carlos Molinero, Elsa Arcaute, Mike Batty and myself). The paper proposes that voting patterns are fracturing along long-standing historic national and regional divisions in Great Britain, and seeks to test this proposition using percolation analysis. The percolation method defines regions by building clusters of road junctions according to a threshold distance, with the road network used as a proxy of population settlement and connectivity. At a threshold distance of 5km Great Britain is one giant cluster-

GBPercolation5000mWe can then reduce this threshold distance to see how Great Britain fractures. At a threshold distance of 1.4km Scotland fractures from England & Wales (although interestingly some of the Scottish borders remain part of the England & Wales cluster). Then at a distance of 900m the North and South of England split, as does the North East of England and North East of Scotland-

GBPercolation1400m920m

By 800m South Wales splits off from England, and the South West and East Anglia become separate regions. Finally at a distance of 500m, we are left with the core of large urban conurbations-

GBPercolation820m560m

These various levels of percolation clusters can be viewed as a tree (below).

TreeDiagramOur question is then, do these regions generated through percolation analysis bear any relationship to voting patterns? We can test this by classifying parliamentary constituencies according to the composition of percolation clusters that fall within each constituency. Each of the parliamentary constituency groups is assigned an ‘average voting behaviour’ from the real voting behaviour in 2010, in terms of a vector of percentage votes for each of the parties. The average voting behaviour of each group can be compared to the real voting behaviour in terms of the percentage error. We can compared the percolation clustering outcomes against results using different datasets. Clusters created using the real voting data naturally produce the lowest error. It is interesting however that the percolation based results outperform clusters produced using common socio-economic data such as socio-economic class, age and education level.

ClusteringMethodsErrorGraph

Making Predictions for 2015
Finally the percolation clusters can also be used to try to make predictions about the forthcoming election using a universal swing method on the 2015 data (for full details see the paper). In the series of maps below we have (from left to right) the prediction using the real 2010 data and latest polls; the prediction using percolation clusters and occupational class data; the prediction using only percolation clusters; and the prediction using only socio-economic class data. The percolation based results appear relatively close to the prediction based directly on the real data. The percolation method is highly clustered spatially, leading to an exaggeration of regional divisions in the UK-

Prediction_Maps

In terms of the total seats predicted, the results are not too far off current polling predictions. The percolation based method tends to exaggerate Labour’s predicted number of seats, as Labour benefit from a strong clustering of their vote in northern city-regions.

Prediction_Table

Overall the percolation method is very a promising approach for understanding regional divisions in the UK, and we continue this line of inquiry in further research. It remains to be seen whether the political geography of the UK will continue to fracture further along these regional lines. A key factor will be whether the rise of smaller parties raises the pressure for voting reform, as the First Past the Post System is becoming increasingly misrepresentative of the UK’s voting patterns and is failing to deliver the single party majority that is supposed to be the FPTP system’s main asset.

Street Trees of Southwark

southwarktrees_rotherhithe
Above is an excerpt of a large, coloured-dot based graphic showing the locations of street trees in Rotherhithe, part of the London Borough of Southwark in London, as released by them to the OpenStreetMap database back in 2010. You can download the full version (12MB PDF). Street trees are trees on public land managed by LB Southwark, and generally include lines of trees on the pavements of residential streets, as well as in council housing estates and public parks. By mapping just the trees, the street network and park locations are revealed, due to their linear pattern or clumping of many types of trees in a small area, respectively. Trees of the same genus have the same colour, on this graphic.

southwarktrees_thinWhy did I choose Southwark for this graphic? Well, it was at the time (and still is) the only London borough that had donated its street tree data in this way. It is also quite a green borough, with a high density of street trees, second only to Islington (which ironically has the smallest proportion of green space of any London borough). There are street tree databases for all the boroughs, but the data generally has some commercial value, and can also be quite sensitive (tree location data can useful for building planning and design, and the exact locations of trees can also be important for neighbourly disputes and other damage claims. It would of course be lovely to have a map of the whole of London – one exists, although it is not freely available. There are street tree maps of other cities, including this very pretty one of New York City by Jill Hubley. There’s also a not-so-nice but still worthy one for Washington DC.

Also well as a PDF version, you can download a zip-file containing a three files: a GeoJSON-format file of the 56000-odd street trees with their species and some other metadata, a QGIS style file for linking the species to the colours, and a QGIS project file if you just want to load it up straight away. You may alternatively prefer to get the data directly from OpenStreetMap itself, using a mechanism like Overpass Turbo.

A version of this map appears in London: The Information Capital, by James Cheshire and Oliver Urberti (who added an attractive colour key using the leaf shapes of each tree genus). You can see most of it below. I previously talked about another contribution I made to the same book, OpenStreetMappers of London, where I also detailed the process and released the data, so think of this post as a continuation of a very small series where I make available the data from my contributions to the book.

The data is Copyright OpenStreetMap contributors, 2015, under the Open Database Licence, and the origin of most of the data is a bulk-import supplied by Southwark Council. This data is dated from 2010. There are also some trees that were added manually before, and have been added manually since, by other OpenStreetMap contributors. These likely include some private trees (i.e. ones which are not “street” trees or otherwise appear on private land.) Many of these, and some of the council-data trees, don’t have information their genus/species, so appear as “Other” on the map – orange in the above extract.

southwarktrees_book

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Street Trees of Southwark

southwarktrees_rotherhithe
This is a cross-post from oobrien.com.

Above is an excerpt of a large, coloured-dot based graphic showing the locations of street trees in Southwark Borough in London, as released by them to the OpenStreetMap database back in 2010. You can download the full version (12MB PDF). Street trees are on public land managed by Southwark Council, and generally include lines of trees on the pavements of residential streets, as well as in council housing estates and public parks. By mapping just the trees, the street network and park locations are revealed, due to their linear pattern or clumping of many types of trees in a small area, respectively. Trees of the same genus have the same colour, on this graphic.

Why did I choose Southwark for this graphic? Well, it was at the time (and still is) the only London borough that had donated its street tree data in this way. It is also quite a green borough, with a high density of street trees, second only to Islington (which ironically has the smallest proportion of green space of any London borough). There are street tree databases for all the boroughs, but the data generally has some commercial value, and can also be quite sensitive (tree location data can useful for building planning and design, and the exact locations of trees can also be important for neighbourly disputes and other damage claims. It would of course be lovely to have a map of the whole of London – one exists, although it is not freely available. There are street tree maps of other cities, including this very pretty one of New York City by Jill Hubley. There’s also a not-so-nice but still worthy one for Washington DC.

Also well as a PDF version, you can download a zip-file containing a three files: a GeoJSON-format file of the 56000-odd street trees with their species and some other metadata, a QGIS style file for linking the species to the colours, and a QGIS project file if you just want to load it up straight away. You may alternatively prefer to get the data directly from OpenStreetMap itself, using a mechanism like Overpass Turbo.

A version of this map appears in London: The Information Capital, by James Cheshire and Oliver Urberti (who added an attractive colour key using the leaf shapes of each tree genus). You can see most of it below. I previously talked about another contribution I made to the same book, OpenStreetMappers of London, where I also detailed the process and released the data, so think of this post as a continuation of a very small series where I make available the data from my contributions to the book.

The data is Copyright OpenStreetMap contributors, 2015, under the Open Database Licence, and the origin of most of the data is a bulk-import supplied by Southwark Council. This data is dated from 2010. There are also some trees that were added manually before, and have been added manually since, by other OpenStreetMap contributors. These likely include some private trees (i.e. ones which are not “street” trees or otherwise appear on private land.) Many of these, and some of the council-data trees, don’t have information their genus/species, so appear as “Other” on the map – orange in the above extract.

southwarktrees_book

Talk by Aletta Bonn on “Citizens create knowledge – knowledge creates citizens”

This talk, by Professor Aletta Bonn from the end of March, provides an overview of what is needed to make citizen science more effective. While the research was done in Germany, many of her discussion points are relevant in other places.

Especially interesting are the Q&A at the end (around 25 min) which demonstrate the issue of trying to pigeon-hole citizen science into a specific thing – participation, education. Interesting is also the acceptance of Wikipedia as a source of valid knowledge.

There are other talks on Science 2.0 from this conference at http://www.science20-conference.eu/programme/


Uneven Growth, Devolution and Urban Futures Research in the UK

This post was written for the UCL Big Question Debate on the UK General Election 2015.

The financial crises and recession that began in 2008 were initially viewed as an opportunity for rebalancing the UK economy away from financial services towards a broader base, and addressing Britain’s long term north-south divide. In reality however the post-recession period has seen a strengthening of regional divisions with high rates of growth in London and much of the South East, compared to mixed or negative performance in the rest of Britain (see the map below). While the South East now needs to tackle the knock-on effects of growth in terms of the severe housing shortage, many regions in the UK have been struggling to achieve growth at all.

GB_Employment_Change

City devolution policies are aimed at boosting growth in northern cities and narrowing regional disparities. The 2015 general election is unique for the prominence of these policies, with devolution manifesto commitments from all the major parties. The Conservatives would continue their programme of devolving some powers and budgets to specific northern cities, while Labour and the Lib Dems would legislate for more comprehensive city devolution. Are these policies likely to work? There is currently much debate and uncertainty over this question. I argue here that urban research can help us understand current trends in cities and the directions urban futures are likely to take.

Firstly we need to understand the continuing structural changes in the economy. Economic growth is being led by professional and business service jobs, so-called ‘knowledge economy’ sectors (see graph below). Despite zero growth in financial services jobs over the last 15 years, professional and business services continue to grow substantially led by sectors such as ICT, management consultancy, creative industries, legal and real estate. Other service sectors are more mixed, with a decline in administrative jobs, and some growth in retail and public services. Meanwhile manufacturing continues to be in decline, though has levelled off in the last five years.

EmploymentChangebySector

The economic picture illustrated above is one that significantly favours cities and city-regions. Knowledge economy firms benefit from clustering together, sharing labour markets, knowledge spill-overs and other externalities. These agglomeration economies are strongest in cities, and strongest of all in large cities, where the density of transport and communications infrastructure facilitates connections and reduces costs. An expanding academic literature describes how larger cities are on average more innovative, competitive, diverse and sustainable, backed up with empirical evidence mostly from the USA. This line of reasoning chimes with the strong economic performance of London in the UK, and explains how the capital has been able to bounce back from the recession through its diverse economic base.

Yet in research at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) we have found that the relationship between city size and economic performance does not hold for Great Britain (see paper). Several small cities are the fastest growing in the country and have become highly specialised in knowledge economy industries, principally cities/towns in the South East with universities such as Milton Keynes, Cambridge and Brighton. Meanwhile the major post-industrial cities, such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle are underperforming given their relatively large size.

Are these northern cities capable of faster growth and developing stronger knowledge economy clusters? Recent regeneration in cities such as Manchester would suggest yes, and indeed some green shoots can be seen in the North West and West Midlands in the map above (these two regions are the fastest growing from 2010-2014 after London).  Such regeneration does however require significant investment, planning and political collaboration. Thus this is where devolution policies come in. The intention is to give cities more powers for strategic planning, housing, transport and local budgets. More comprehensive devolution proposals allow cities to retain money raised by local taxation. At present the city with by far the most devolved powers is London, with the creation of the mayor and Greater London Authority having positive impacts on development over the last 15 years and helping attract infrastructure spending towards the capital (indeed to an unfair extent- there is a huge UK public investment bias towards London). Would devolution allow other large cities to repeat London’s success, or would fiscal devolution favour existing affluent cities and exacerbate divisions?

Many of these issues around the future of UK cities are being discussed by the Foresight Future of Cities project which UCL is significantly involved in. You can read current Foresight working papers exploring this and many other current urban debates here. We also have a new CASA paper investigating the fracturing political geography of Great Britain.

The Fractured Nature of British Politics

fracture

Carlos, Elsa, Duncan and myself (Mike) decided to explore next week’s British election using some of our social physics, specifically our work on uncovering urban hierarchies through percolation theory, which basically consists on looking at the connectivity of ‘representative’ areas in the street system.

This might seem an arcane way of proceeding but when we examine England, Scotland and Wales as a giant connected cluster, and then break it up by successively reducing the distances between its nodes, we first disconnect the periphery – the Scottish islands – and then quite suddenly when the threshold hits 1.4 kms, Scotland breaks off from the rest, pretty much evoking our sentiments about Scottish independence.  Reducing this further, the North and West split from the South East at around 900m and this represents the fault line that as a young student in the early 1960s, was introduced to me as the North-South divide. After this,  Wales and the West Country split off separately, evoking shades of Welsh and Cornish independence. Once we hit 300m, the big cities appear. At the same time, many of the little cities fill in the backcloth.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this is the way the British electorate might vote in next week’s election given all the hype about Scot Nats, the imminent demise of the Liberal Democrats, and the influence of the new parties such as UKIP which could be massive or could be negligible. We don’t know whether or not there will be a last minute bounce and what kind of bounce, dead cat, or otherwise.

Anyway we have had a go at producing our own predictions. And we have placed a paper in the arXiv (which will be available there next Monday) but we would like you to look at here – Click(We also have a slightly higher resolution version with the links which is here) Please re-tweet it as we want some feedback on this approach because it is much wider than next week’s election per se for it represents a new way of thinking about cities and regions and nations in this connected age. Elsa has also put our more basic paper on the methodology up at the arXiv too and you can get that here too directly.

You might also want to look at our percolation movie too which is rather neat and you can access by clicking in the link here.

The London Thames Path

londonthamespath_shot1

The London Thames Path is a brand new book by author/illustrator David Fathers. Like his previous book on the Regent’s Canal, it is an attractively illustrated narrative to walking alongside the water feature, with every double-page having a map, surrounded by pictures and information factoids about the current section. As such, it’s very pleasant to read even if you are not using it as a guide book. The Thames, being the defining geographical feature of London, is packed full of history and the book delivers this well, be it talking about historic monuments and houses alongside the river, to geographical quirks like the Prime Meridian and measurements of the lengths of all the bridges passed.

London Thames Path_cover 15mm.inddThe route is shown as a simple red dotted line, with staircase links and nearby tube/rail stations and piers marked. You could probably manage to walk the Thames Path without this book, but having a guide like this, carefully written by an author with a genuine interest in the route, makes the experience much more interesting.

The guide has 127 pages and includes a summary map showing all the crossings on two pages, and a further double-page spread on the Thames Estuary, i.e. further downstream from the section of the Thames (Putney Bridge to the Thames Barrier) that the main guide concentrates on. Where the Thames Path runs on both sides of the river, both sides are included.

The London Thames Path is published by Frances Lincoln Publishers and is released on 7 May. You can be among the first to get hold of this gem by ordering it from Amazon for shipping next week.

londonthamespath_shot2

Thanks to David Fathers for sending a review copy.

Logistic Growth and Ergodic Properties of Urban Forms

arxiv-paolo

Our new paper reports research on the definition of cities led by A. Paolo Masucci with Elsa Arcaute, Jiaqiu Wang, Erez Hatna, Kiril Stanilov and Michael Batty. Its in the arXiv and you can get it here from this link. Here is the abstract:

GISRUK 2015

The week before last I was at GISRUK, the long-running annual conference for early (and not-so-early) career researchers in GI Science in the UK, Ireland and further afield. This year’s conference was in Leeds and attracted a record number of 200+ delegates. I presented a poster at a meeting the day before the main conference, but otherwise had no presentation to give this year, which means I was able to relax and focus on getting to the most interesting sessions. This year we had some great keynotes, including two great visual talks from Google’s Ed Parsons and MIT’s Sarah Williams, opening and closing the conference respectively. Outside of the keynotes, there were three main streams running simultaneously, but with the theme regularly changing after each group of talks, which meant for plenty of room swapping.

Five of my favourite talks:

  • gisruk1With a large UCL attendance, there were plenty of talks on geodemographics and socioeconomic mapping. One of my favourites was from Monsuru Adepeju of the UCL Crime, Policing and Citizenship project, the talk looed at a new way of detecting crime hotspots. The presentaiton included the above map of a crime-weighted geodemographic map of London.
  • gisruk2Staying with UCL and geodemographics, but going from crime to food, this classification, developed alongside a major food retailer in the UK, was presented by Guy Lansley of the UCL Consumer Data Research Centre, the work linked ethnic-weighted classifications with the popularity of certain food types, to simplify the task of providing particular food-types popular with one or more major ethnic groups in the UK, as the country’s population demographic continues to change and move.
  • gisruk3Staying with the geodemographic theme, Mark Birkin of Leeds gave an overview of geodemographics research in the era of big data, where ever increasing amounts of data allow ever more sophisticated analysis to be performed. The above image shows a slide from a presentation presenting a very detailed geodemographic map – right down to postcode (typically 50 homes) level.
  • gisruk4Away from geodemographics and to cartography: Jonny Huck of Lancaster presented the results of a study into creating a number of map types that encouraged good interaction with the map itself – the aim making maps for mobile devices that were engaging and encouraged people to look at the screen frequently when navigating – but not being so difficult to interpret that they were frustrating. Four styles of map, of the Lancaster University campus, were created from a Google Maps base, and participants were asked to navigate around the campus. The style that proved to be most effective in terms of engagement, while being fun to use, was the “PacMap”, a screenshot of which is shown above. Ironically Google released an unrelated PacMap for the whole world, as part of this year’s “April Fool” Google Maps hack.
  • gisruk5Ed Manley of UCL showed some results of using mobile phone data to derive patterns of mobility through certain parts of an urban area, showing that different communities experience their cities in different ways.
  • I didn’t see the presentation by Robin Lovelace (Leeds) on his work-in-progress on creating an R/Shiny-based tool for visualising current inter-neighbourhood cycling flows, and predicting future flows based on several scenarios, but I did get a demo of the tool, which is looking impressive, and will be a powerful way to communicate a complex dataset.
  • Some other highlights included TransportOAC (Nick Bearman, Liverpool) which is a geodemographic map focused on who people move around the UK. The classification is relatively “noisy” spatially, and London’s unique transport system (compared with the rest of the UK) means it gets a number of classification groups to itself. I also enjoyed Nilufer Aslam’s talk about linking metro smartcard data (from TfL’s Oyster Card) with journey and usage information of bikeshare systems, to see whether they indeed formed a “last mile” option for commuters, and how availability patterns affected this.
  • gisruk6I presented a poster, above, on DataShine, at the poster session for a meeting immediately prior to GISRUK. The poster summarises the three websites that are my principal output thus far, from the BODMAS project.

So, an excellent conference, full of interesting talks on geodemographics and various other GIS-related research. Thanks to the organisers for their hard work in staging a smoothly-run and successful three days.

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AAG 2015 – day 4 notes – Citizen Science & OpenStreetMap Studies

The last day of AAG 2015 is about citizen science and OpenStreetMap studies.

The session Beyond motivation? Understanding enthusiasm in citizen science and volunteered geographic information was organised together with Hilary Geoghegan. We were interest to ‘explore and debate current research and practice moving beyond motivation, to consider the associated enthusiasm, materials and meanings of participating in citizen science and VGI.’

As Hilary couldn’t attend the conference, we started the session with a discussion about experiences of enthusiasm – for example, my own experience with IBM World Community Grid.  Jeroen Verplanke raised the addiction in volunteer thinking projects, such as logging in to Zooniverse or Tomnod project, and time fly-by. Mairead de Roiste described mapping wood-pigeon in New Zealand – public got involved because they wanted to help, but when they hear that the data wasn’t use, they might lose interest. Urgency can also be a form influencing participation.

Britta Ricker – University of Washington Tacoma – Look what I can do! Harnessing drone enthusiasm for increased motivation to participate. On-going research. Looking at the Geoweb – it allow people to access information, and made imagery available to the public, and the data is at the whim of whoever give us the data. With drones, we can send them up when we want or need to. Citizen Science is deeply related to geoweb – challenge is to get people involve and make them stay involved. We can harness drone enthusiasm – they evoke negative connotation but also thinking about them for good – humanitarian applications. Evidence for the enthusiasm is provided by YouTube where there are plenty of drone video – 3.44M – lots of action photography: surfing community and GoPro development. People are attached to the drone – jumping to the water to save them. So how the enthusiasm to drones can be harnessed to help participatory mapping. We need to design a workflow around stages: pre-flight, flight, post processing. She partnered with water scientists to explore local issues. There are considerations of costs and popularity – and selected quadcopter for that. DJI Phantom Vision 2+. With drones need to read the manual and plan the flight. There are legal issues of where it is OK to fly, and Esri & MapBox provide information on where you can fly them. Need to think of camera angle – need also to correct fisheye, and then process the images. Stitch imagery can be done manually (MapKnitter/QGIS/ArcGIS). Possible to do it in automated software, but open source (e.g. OpenDroneMap) is not yet good enough in terms of ease of use. Software such as Pix4D is useful but expensive. Working with raster data is difficult, drones require practice, and software/hardware is epensive – not yet ready to everyone. NGOs can start using it. Idea: sharing photos , classifying images together by volunteers.

Brittany Davis – Allegheny College – Motivated to Kill: Lionfish Derbies, Scuba Divers, and Citizen Science. Lionfish are stunning under water – challenging to differentiate between the two sub species but it doesn’t matter if you’re trying to catch them. They are invasive species and are without predators, exploded – especially from 2010. There is a lot of informational campaign and encouraging people to hunt them, especially in dive centres – telling people that it is a way to save a Caribbean reefs. When people transform themselves from ‘benign environmental activity’ to ‘you tell me that I can hunt? cool!’. Lionfish is tasty so having the meat for dinner is a motivation. Then doing ‘lionfish derbies’ – how many can you kill in a day. Seen a lot of enthusiasm for lionfish derbies. Trying to sign up people to where they go but they are not recording where they hunt the lionfish. People go to another site for competition as they want to capture more. REEF trying to encourage a protocol for capturing them, and there are cash prizes for the hunting. They use the catch to encourage people to hunt lionfish. Derbies increase in size – 14832 were removed from 2009 to 2014 and some evidence for the success of the methodology. There was a pressure on ‘safely and humanely capture and euthanase these fish’ – challenge for PADI who run special scuba courses that are linked to conservation. People hear about the hunting and that motivate people to go diving. There is a very specific process of REEF sanctioned lionfish derby, so trying to include recording and public information. But there are challenges below the depth of recreational divers. She also explored if it is possible to improve data collection for scientists.

Cheryl Gilge – University of Washington – The rhetorical flourish of citizen participation (or, the formation of cultural fascism?) offered a theoretical analysis of citizen science and web 2.0 as part of a wider project to understand labour relationships and power. She argues that there is agency to the average citizen to link to their environment. They have the ability to contribute, and to receive information is part of Web 2.0. As a technology layer, it changes both the individual and society levels. The collaboration and participation in Web 2.0 is framed around entrepreneurialism, efficiencies, and innovation. The web is offering many opportunities to help wider projects, where amateur and expert knowledge are both valued. However, there is a risk of reducing the politics of participation – semblance of agency. Democratic potential – but also co-opting the spirit is in evidence. There is plenty of examples of inducing individuals to contribute data and information, researchers are eager to understand motivation over a long period. Rational system to explain what is going on can’t explain the competing goals and values that are in action. The desire to participation is spread – fun, boredom etc. From understanding people as ‘snowflakes’ to unashamed exploitation. Why do people contribute to the wider agenda? As provocation, harnessing crowd potential to neoliberalisation agenda of universities. We give freedom to the efficiency and promise of digital tools. Government promise ‘open government’ or ‘smart cities’ that put efficiency as the top value. Deep libertarian desire for small government is expressed through technology. The government have sensors that reduce cost of monitoring what is happening. In the academic environment – reduce funding, hiring freeze, increase in pressure to publish – an assumption that it is possible to mechanically produce top research. Trading in ideas are less valued. Desire for capacity of information processing, or dealing with humanitarian efforts – projects like Galaxy Zoo require more people to analyse the masses of data that research produces, or mapathons to deal with emergencies. Participants are induced to do more through commitment to the project and harnessing enthusiasm. Adding inducement to the participants. She introduce the concept of micro-fascism from Guattari  – taking over freedoms in the hope of future promises. It enable large group formation to happen – e.g. identities such as I’m Mac/PC – it is harder to disconnect. Fascism can be defined as an ideology that rely on the masses in believing in the larger goals, the unquestioned authority of data in Web 2.0. Belief in technology induce researchers to get data and participation regardless of the costs. Open source is presented as democracy, but there are also similarities with fascism. Participation in the movement and participants must continue to perform. It bring uncomfortable participation – putting hope on these activities, but also happens in top down and bottom up, and Web 2.0. What is the ethical role of researchers who are involved in these projects? How do we value this labour? Need to admit that it is a political.

In a final comment, Teresa Scassa pointed that we need to consider the implication of legitimising drones, killing fish or employing unpaid labour – underlying all is a moral discomfort.

Afternoon, the two sessions on OpenStreetMap that Alan McConchie and I organised, taking the 10th birthday of OSM as a starting point, this session will survey the state of geographical research on OpenStreetMap and recognising that OSM studies are different from VGI. The session is supported by the European COST Energic (COST Action IC1203) network: European Network Exploring Research into Geospatial Information Crowdsourcing.

OpenStreetMap Studies 1 

Jennings Anderson, Robert Soden, Mikel Maron, Marina Kogan & Ken Anderson – University of Colorado, Boulder – The Social Life of OpenStreetMap: What Can We Know from the Data? New Tools and Approaches. OSM provides a platform to understand human centred computing. The is very valuable information in OSM history file, and they built a framework (EPIC OSM) that can run spatial and temporal queries and produces JSON output that can be then analysed. They are use existing tools and software frameworks to deliver it. The framework was demonstrated: can ask questions by day, or by month and even bin them by week and other ways. Running such questions which are evaluated by Ruby, so easy to add more questions and change them. They already use the framework in a paper in CHI about the Haiti earthquake (see video below).  Once they’ve created the underlying framework, they also developed an interface – OSM Markdown – can embed code and see changesets, accumulative nodes collected and classification by type of user. They are also providing information with tags. When analysing Haiti response, they see spike in noted added and what they see in buildings – the tags of collapse=yes

Christian Bittner – Diverse crowds, diverse VGI? Comparing OSM and Wikimapia in JerusalemChristian looked at differences in Wikimapia and OSM as sources of VGI. Especially interested in the social implications such as the way exclusion plays in VGI – challenges between Palestine/Israel – too contradicting stories that play out in a contested space, and there are conflict and fights over narratives that the two sides enact in different areas. With new tools, there is a ‘promise’ of democratisation – so a narrative of collaboration and participation. In crowdsourced geographic information we can ask: who is the crowd, and who is not? Studying social bias in OSM is a topic that is being discussed in the literature. The process is to look at the database of OSM. Analysing the data and metadata and used the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Simplified representation of the city, and region are classified by majority – Arab or Jewish. Then used cartograpms according to size of population and the amount of information collected.In OSM, Jewish areas are over-represented, while Arab areas are under-represented. Bias toward male from privileged socio-economic background as participants. In Wikimapia, the process is tagging places and uses visual information from Google. Wikimapia is about qualitative information so objects are messy and overlap, with no definitions of what consist of a place. In Wikimapia, there is much more descriptions of the Arab areas which are over-represented. The amount of information in Wikimpaia is smaller – 2679 objects, compared to 33,411 ways in OSM. In OSM there is little Arabic, and more Hebrew, though Latin is the most used language. Wikimapia is the other way around, with Hebrew in the minority. The crowd is different between projects. There are wider implications – diverse crowd so diverse VGI? VGI is diverse form of data, and they are produced in different ways from different knowledge cultures. He call for very specific studies on each community before claiming that VGI is general form of information.

Tim Elrick  & Georg Glasze – University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany –  A changing mapping practices? Representation of Places of Worship in OpenStreetMap and other sourcesThe start of the process is noticing that churches are presented on official maps, but not a masques, noticing how maps are used to produce specific narratives. What happen in new forms of mapping? In Google Maps, the masque is presented, but not the church, in OSM both are mapped. What is happening? In the old topographic maps, the official NMAs argue that it provides a precise representation – but failing to do so in terms of religious differences. Some state do not include non-Christian places of worship – the federal mapping agency came with symbols for such places (masques, synagogues) but the preference from the states NMAs was for a generic mark for all non-Christian places that do not differentiate between religions. USGS just have single mark for house of worship – with cross. The USGS suggested to carry out crowdsourcing to identify places of worship so they are willing to change. In OSM there are free tagging and marks for religion, but the rendering dictate only some tags. In 2007 there was suggestion to change rendering of non-Christian places. Once Steve Chilton created cartographic symbols for the change. OSM do-ocracy can lead to change, but in other places that use OSM this was not accepted – there are different symbols in OpenCycleMaps. In Germany, there are conflicts about non visible places of worship (e.g. Masque in social club). Adaptive approach to dealing with location in OSM. In Google there is a whole set of data sources that are used, but also crowdsourcing which go to moderators in Google – no accountability or local knolwedge. Places of worship is not transparent. Categorisation and presentation change with new actors – corporate and open data. Google use economy of attention.

Alan McConchie – University of British Columbia – Map Gardening in Practice: Tracing Patterns of Growth and Maintenance in OpenStreetMap. Looking at history of OSM. Editing existing features is an important as adding new ones – having to collaborate and dealing with other people data. In the US, OSM is a mixed of volunteer and imported data – it’s ongoing aspect of the project. Questions: do the ‘explorers’ stick around? the people who like empty spaces . Do imports hinder the growth of the community? and does activity shift to ‘gardening’? The TIGER import in 2007 have been significant to the growth of the project. There are also many other imports – address in Denmark, French land cover, incomplete land cover imports in Canada. There was community backlash from people who were concerned about the impact of imports (e.g. Crowe 2011; Fredrik Ramm, 2012, Tobias Knerr, 2015). The debate is also between different regional factions. There is an assumption that only empty areas are exciting. That is problematic in terms of someone joining now in Germany. New best practices that are evolving Imports in Seattle were used to encourage the community and build it. Zielstra et al. 2013 explored imports show different growths, but not so simple as just to pin it on imports. Alan takes the ‘Wiki Gardening’ concept – people who like to keep things tidy and well maintained. Analysing small areas. Identifying blank spots, but trying to normalise across city in the world – e.g. population from the gridded population of the world. Exploring edits per month. We see many imports happening all the time. At individual city, explore the behaviour of explorers and those that never mapped the unknown. In London, new mappers are coming in while at Vancouver the original mapper are the one that continue to maintain the map. There is power law effects that trump anything else, and shift to new contributors and it is not clear cut.

Monica G. Stephens – University at Buffalo – Discussant: she started looking at OSM only few years ago, because of a statement from Mike Goodchild that women are not included, so done survey of internet users in Google Maps and OSM. She found that geotagging is much more male – more then just sharing image. In her survey she noticed gender bias in OSM. Maps are biased by the norms, traditions, assumptions and politics of map maker (Harley 1989). Biases – but biases of map maker – bikes in Denver (what interest them), or uneven representation of Hebrew in Jerusalem, or Religious attributes. Also there is how the community makes decision – how to display information? what to import? There are issues of ethos – there are fundamental differences in UK and Germany communities to US mapping communities. This lead to interesting conversations between these communities. There are also comparison, Wikimapia, Google Maps, Topo Maps – the tell us what OSM is doing. OSM democracy is more efficient and responding to communities ideas. The discussions on tagging childcare – rejected but there are discussions that led to remapping of tags in response to the critique. Compare to Google Maps, who was creating local knowledge? in Google Maps 96% of reviewers are male (in Google Map Maker 2012), so the question is who is the authority that govern Wikimapia.

OpenStreetMap Studies 2  included the following:

Martin Loidl – Department of Geoinformatics, University of Salzburg – An intrinsic approach for the detection and correction of attributive inconsistencies and semantic heterogeneity in OSM data. Martin come from data modelling perspective, accepting that OSM is based on bottom-up approach, with flat data modelling and attributes, with no restriction on tag usage. There are attributive inconsistencies. Semantics heterogeneity is influencing visualisation, statistics and spatial analysis. Suggesting to improve results by harmonization and correction through estimation. There has been many comparison of OSM quality over the years. There is little work on attribute information. Martin suggested an intrinsic approach that rely on the data in OSM – expecting major roads to be connected and consistent. Showing how you can attributes in completeness. Most of the road in OSM are local roads and  and there is high heterogeneity, but we need them and we should care about them. There are issues with keeping the freedom to tag – it expose the complexity of OSM.

Peter A. Johnson – University of Waterloo Challenges and Constraints to Municipal Government Adoption of OpenStreetMap. The collaboration of MapBox with NYC – agreement on data sharing was his starting point and motivation to explore how we can connect government and citizens to share data. Potentially, OSM community will help with official data, improve it and send it back. Just delivering municipal data over OSM base map is not much – maybe we need to look at mirroring – questions about currency, improvement of our services, and cheaper/easier to get are core questions. Evaluating official data and OSM data. Interview with governments in Canada, with range of sizes – easy in large cities, basic steps in medium and little progress in rural places. No official use of OSM, but do make data available to OSM community, and anecdotal evidence of using it for different jobs unofficially. Not seeing benefits in mirroring data, and they are the authoritative source for information, no other data is relevant. Constraints: not sure that OSM is more accurate and risk averse culture. They question fit with organisation needs, lacking required attributes, and they do see costs in altering existing data. OSM might be relevant to rural and small cities where data is not being updated.

Muki Haklay – University College London COST Energic – A European Network for research of VGI: the role of OSM/VGI/Citizen Science definitionsI’ve used some of the concepts that I first presented in SOTM 2011 in Vienna, and extended them to the general area of citizen science and VGI. Arguing that academics need to be ‘critical friends’, in a nice way, to OSM and other communities. The different talks and Monica points about changes in tagging demonstrate that this approach is effective and helpful.

Discussant: Alan McConchie – University of British Columbia. The later session looked at intrinsic or extrinsic analysis of OSM – such as Martin’s work on internal consistency, there are issues of knowing specific person in the bits of the process who can lead to the change. There is a very tiny group of people that make the decisions, but there is a slow opening towards accountability (e.g. OSM rendering style on Github). There are translation of knowledge and representation that happen in different groups and identifying how to make the information correctly. There is a sense of ‘no one got the right answer’. Industry and NGOs also need to act as critical friends – it will make it a better project. There is also critical GIS conversations – is there ‘fork’ within the OSM studies? We can have conversations about these issues.

Follow up questions explored the privacy of the participants and maybe mentioned it to participants and the community, and also the position as participant or someone who alters the data and as a researcher – the implications of participatory observations.


London Railway Atlas (4th ed)

londonrailwayatlas_detail2

The London Railway Atlas is probably the most detailed map of London’s myriad of tube, train and tram lines, past and present, that you are ever likely to see. Over the course of 100+ pages, author and cartographer Joe Brown has painstakingly drawn every single track that there is, in London and the immediate surrounding area – be it regular commuter lines, dockside sidings or historical wartime networks (Thamesmead has an interesting past.)

What I like most about the book is not the depiction of the current tube and other networks we have a love/hate relationship with as commuters on a regular basis, but on the historical lines and links that are no more. By way of example, I never knew that Waterloo Station used to actually be three seperate stations, with the middle one including a line linking through to Waterloo East:

londonrailwayatlas_waterloo2

The book is in its fourth edition and is right up-to-date, including the route of the freshly tunnel (but not yet opened) Crossrail route, as well as the 2018-ish rerouting of the Metropolitan Line to Watford Junction and the proposed Northern Line extension, as well as other various tweaks, e.g. that new viaduct above Borough Market. There is not an online version but the style is somewhat reminicent of the “Carto Metro” map, which is online here, although the Atlas is even more detailed, in that it includes the aforementioned historical lines, non-TfL lines, tunnel status and various information on dates opened (and closed). It even has the Mail Rail.

The London Railway Atlas is a book very much focused on one thing – the most detailed network map you will ever see. It’s certainly a specialist book on a niche topic but if that sounds like something for you or a rail-geek friend, the book is available on Amazon in hardback.

londonrailwayatlas_cover

Thanks to publisher Ian Allan for sending a review copy.

8: Interdisciplinarity

Systems thinking (see earlier entry) drives us to interdisciplinarity: we need to know everything about a system of interest and that means anything and everything that any relevant discipline can contribute. For almost any social science system of interest, there … Continue reading

AAG 2015 notes – day 3 – Civic Technology, Citizen Science, Crowdsourcing and mapping

The sessions today covered Civic technology, citizen science, and the new directions in mapping – Open Source/Crowdsourcing/Big Data

First, Civic technology: governance, equity and inclusion considerations, with Pamela Robinson – Ryerson University (Chair) and Peter A. Johnson – University of Waterloo, Teresa Scassa – University of Ottawa and Jon Corbett – University of British Columbia-Okanagan. The Discussant is Betsy Donald – Queen’s University.

The background of the panel is participatory mapping (Jon), government use of open and geoweb tools (Peter), law (Teresa), urban planning (Pamela), and geography (Betsy) .

First question for the panel: what are the challenges to civic technologiy support government?

Peter – taking technology perspective. Looking at Chicago Open Data site – had a section that doesn’t only deliver CSV that is, actually, specialised knowledge. They have a featured data set – you can download it, or look at it on the map. The ‘problem landlord dataset’ only show points on the map – no information what does it mean or how it came about. The focus is on tech-savvy users that will access open data, and assumption of tech-intermediaries who will use it for civic purposes. If that is the case, shouldn’t it be city staff who use the data and act as infomediaries? Pamela – looked at civic hackathons (see yesterday). City staff are asked to make  a business case for open data and hackathon. It ask to bring business thinking into something that is not about civic engagement (how you monetise that?). It’s a weird tool in terms of the aim of the process which are not financial. There is also pressure to demonstrate an outcome of ‘killer app’ and they are more about bringing people together with tech knowledge and civic minded people. Teresa – open data is equated with free – from regulations, costs, no limitation to use. There are costs associated in making the data free in the first place, and that is a problem in terms of government not giving thought to these costs. Datasets are being opened without due thought to privacy concern. Is open data just a subsidy to companies that use to pay for it? Also free from regulations – part of neoliberalism view of removing all the bureaucracy that is halting the market. But part of it is there with social justice perspective – e.g. requirement about accessibility, language, regulations that are there to protect vulnerable people against abuse. So the concept of free is not simple. Also what happen when the government pass it to the private sector, so they circumvent their own regulations, or the private sector to use the data but without protection. Jon – problematise the question. Relationship of municipal and state. There are examples in Canada that don’t fit the model – e.g. first nation governance. There the data is not that simple. The other issue is the support to government – is the open data movement can be used to resist and challenge government? Renee – the non-profit open north use data to cause problems to the city and demonstrated corruption in government – a very tech-savvy  organisation. Pamela – some forms of collaboration is to get out of the way of community organisations to allow them to do the work. Jon – there can be high level of cynicism on how the data is going to be used. Access to data is not the same as accessibility. There are issues of scale – in large cities there are enough capacity but in smaller cities there is no capacity in government and or civic society to deal with data. Pamela – in Toronto there are urbanists community coming in search of tech support. There are blurred lines between civil servant and civic engagement in free time. Thomas (audience) – in Chicago, people build visualisation at a county budget, also exposing data about closing schools. Also good applications such as streamlining expunging negative records to allow people to develop new career http://www.expunge.io/. There was also the city lands project – http://largelots.org/ – you can buy a lot for $1, and that can be a burden to people who are involved. Renee – heterogenise the state, not to think about local government as ‘them’ and it is organisation in which people make decisions about opening or resisting opening data. There are plenty decisions that are done at individual level. Also worth looking at prior data acquisition. There are examples of extracting data from the city and relationships before the open data. Betsy – what open government mean? What about digital divides? gender, age, social-economic background. Mike – there is a need to consider Marxist notion of free – it is not free in reality as it just allow people to be consumed into a system with different power relationship. I’ve raised that ‘open government’ is coming from view of ‘government as platform’. Renee – civic tech is a mutating terms over the years. Teresa – open government rhetoric are around transparency and accountability where the agenda is around innovations and market solutions to civic problems.
The second question was: How would we start to evaluate the impact of civic technology? Peter – what metrics will we use? money (time saved, internal and external benefits, eyeballs – evaluating hits). Municipal staff want to measure that they do and are looking to justify their work. Jon – need to evaluate impact and value. Scale, and point of evaluation. Scale of interaction and intervention. Should projects be evaluated by the number of people involved? We usually evaluate during the project lifetime but fail to do longer analysis. need to understand long term impacts – beyond page views. Teresa – which impact – economic? use? engagement? from privacy perspective – when government encourage engagement through Google or Twitter – you are actually giving data to Big Data engines not just the government. There is erosion of public/private distinction in services, leading to erosion of citizen rights and recourse? When transit apps record information, there is plenty of information that leaks to private sector companies who don’t have the same responsibilities and obligations. Pamela – civic for whom? when there are income distribution is so different in cities, and we need to understand digital divide at the city level. Teresa – some of the legal infrastructure to deal with protection and access to information when private sector work so closely with the government. Betsy – there are groups that work in big tech companies, which were curios of geographers and what they do, but no idea of social science. Privacy have been given away. Jon – there are windows of opportunity around edifices of open data, where are we going to end up? Teresa – contracting out to external companies can lead to issues of data ownership and that require managing it at the contracting stage.

Citizen Science and Geoweb, with Renee Sieber (Chair) with talks covering a range of areas – from cartography to bird watching.

Andrea Minano – University of Waterloo – Geoweb Tools for Climate Change Adaptation: A Case Study in Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Her work explores the link between participation and citizen science. In terms climate change adaptation it is about understanding impacts in local context, lack of risk awareness – and it also political issue. The participatory Geoweb can be used to display and share information online. She carried out research in Nova Scotia which rely on fisheries, most people live by the shore. People are aware and they’ve seen climate change in front of them – Municipal Climate Change Action Plan (MCCAP) are being developed. Each of the 5 municipalities that she worked with created plan and they are concerned with flooding. They had 3D LiDAR data and can visualise prediction of floods and return periods, but they didn’t know how to use it and what to do with it. She created two prototypes and tested them. She used satellite images as backdrop, she made LiDAR data usable on the web. AdaptNS allow multiple geographic scales and temporal scales – allow people to show concerns and indicate them on the map. Carried out a workshop of 2 hours with 11 participants. People were concerned about critical infrastructure – single road that might be flooded. The tool help people to understand what climate change mean and adaptation discourse at wider scales.

Jana M Viel – UW-Milwaukee – Habitat Preferences of the Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) in Cities and Villages in Southeastern Wisconsin. Nighthawk is active in dawn and dusk – new tropical migrants, they don’t do much during the day. They nest on the ground or flat gravelled roofed. They experience slow population decline in the last 40 years. Maybe there is lack of roof sustrate – not enough gravelled roofs – volunteers started installing gravelled section on roof with little success. In Wisconsin, they try to understand the decline with data from breeding bird survey , Wisconsin nightjar survey, Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas – studies don’t cover urban area and lacking observation in dusk. There is a limitation, that need to do the study in the months when the birds are there. The aim of the research is to help monitoring and improve methodology. The study measured some variables in the field but then used other geographic information for analysis. There was help from both volunteers and organisation – there was special volunteer trianing – easy because it’s one type of bird that people should recognise. Volunteers – reason: love birds, fun, help conservation. Half of the people that participate are retired and most people with education and not for profit. Some volunteers drop out but not too many. People used phones to navigate to survey site. People use point count with paper forms. Information was also recorded on eBird. Results – total 31000 survey hours, with 1412 survey in which 98 nighthawks where detected. Isseus: no data, problems with Google Maps, unfamiliar with technology. The summary – success in carry out baseline survey. Clear research question, clear protocol, training and resources, need coordinator that is active, researchers need to update about the analysis and do outreach and thanking volunteers. Sustainability and who will continue the work is an issue – answering phone calls.

Kevin Sparks, Alexander Klippel &Jan Oliver Wallgrün – The Pennsylvania State University with David Mark – NCGIA & Department of Geography, University at Buffalo – Assessing Environmental Information Channels for Citizen Science Land Cover Classification. Kevin looked at COBWEB goals – the project is enabling citizens to collect data and working with them to deal with data quality. Geo-Wiki project which allow people to manage information about land cover. Kevin looked at Degree confluence Project – collected 770 photos and link them to land cover database, and corresponding value to each one of them. – they have 7 samples in each class of the 11 land cover classes – then compared lay participants, vs educated lay participants vs experts. They ask people to select class and say how confidence they are. They created experiment with ground-based photo and another with ground & aerial-based images. Participants recruited through AMT. There was 45.97% agreement with National Land Cover Data. when shown the aerial image, reduced to 42.97% – when looking at the confidence level, the success goes to 71.91% agreement. Variation in participants, interface and stimuli – you see similar patterns that are not influence by these factors but by the semantic nature of land cover classification. Aerial photoes favour more homogonized classes.

Robert Edsall – Idaho State University –  Case Studies in Citizen-enabled Geospatial Inquiry. Exploring from cartographic perspective and interested how society interact with maps. How maps being intermediaries in citizen science projects. From Citizen Science 2015 ocnference, he noticed that there is a growing understanding of the potential of citizen science to be collaborative or co-created projects. In Geogrpahy, we got success in VGI. Asking people to develop hypotheses is less developed, although that happened in PPGIS and PGIS. Participatory GIS and citizen science are parallel in helping the shaping of the environment. Rob is interested in visualisation and visual analytics. Collabroative citizen science does seem to be a good match for visual analytics. Although the tools are sometime design for experts, they can be used by citizens. Incorporating serious games seem to work in some cases – and attract citizen scientists (MacGonigal 2012). We can think of volunteered geographic analysis. Now we can look at examples – nature mapping in Jackson Hole to suggest to people that they can analysed their data, after a while, people disengaged and didn’t want to expose their data and other reasons. The second case study is about historical data – images from different collection, but they are not catalogued or geolocated. They are doing Metadatagems project that helps people to locate information. People can specify ranges and location. We can enable engaged citizens in higher levels of the analysis.

New Directions in Mapping 2: Open Source, Crowd-sourcing and “Big Data”. With Matthew Zook – University of Kentucky (chair) Sean Gorman – Timbr.io Inc. ,  Andrew Hill – CartoDB, Courtney Claessens – Esri , Randy Meech – Mapzen and  Charlie Lloyd – Mapbox.

Questions: future of the map and the mapable? question that what can be mapped doesn’t need to be mapped. Definition of what is the map and what is mappable changes. Mapping is becoming so pervasive that it ‘disappear’. Fear about view of the world that is not representative – only of the digital haves. If the future of the map is crowdsourced what should we do about places that are left out? History the map was always biassed.

What does ‘open mapping’ mean? Is open source/FOSS still a real thing and how do we maintain an open mapping ethos? agreement on the panel that open source is here to stay, and a belief that open mapping where companies and different bodies collaborate to share data openly will win over proprietary datasets.

How do we address the uneven nature of crowd-sourcing and its impact on what and where is mapped? Assumption that people want to map empty areas and it is less motivating when the map is full (wonder if that is true). Issues of what do we do if the crowd falsify information. It is not either/or, we should have an hybrid of government and crowdsourced information together. Need to understand that community diverse and data is diverse – imports, power users, one timers, local and people from far away.

How might we push geographers/mappers ‘beyond the geotag’ and consider other other (and non-spatial) aspects of data? By dragging just the geo part from data in its context, we are losing a lot of important information. Need to tell stories about geo and integrate narratives. We need to tell real stories more naturally. Need to consider relational mapping – we are in network society and extending into different spaces. Adding meaning to mapping has remained difficult – maybe should promote slow mapping. People do create maps and get meaning from them. Fast mapping – it’s easy to make bad map that doesn’t give you any information that help you to understand place. What people are getting out of maps? What happen when you produce bad maps and how to tell it to people?


AAG 2015 notes – day 2 – Public Participation GIS symposium

The second day was dedicated to reflections on Public Participation GIS or Participatory GIS. The day was organised by Rina Ghose and Bandana Karr with some comments from Renee Sieber and me at some stage. It turned out to be an excellent symposium.DSC01463

The following are my notes from the different talks during the day.

Jon Corbett, Associate Professor – University of British Columbia-Okanagan
Rachelle Hole, Associate Professor – University of British Columbia Okanagan: Plain Language Mapping: Rethinking the Participatory Geoweb to Include Users with Intellectual Disabilities. Jon talked about the background of participatory mapping – starting from development context. Within the geoweb, it is easy to forget what the aim of the system. He describes people who are with intellectual disabilities, and because work is so meaningful in society, they wanted to enable such people to share experience about employment. They wanted to especially focus on positive experiences that can be shared. They started created an employment mapping tool using the GeoWeb, to understand how to overcome barrier for employment. They are working with different stakeholders  – and  the map uses classification with the job type and the process stage. They see it as opportunity for people to share details and create a network of support. They used co-design which included people with intellectual disabilities. There are issues in the design – dealing with ‘contribution bottleneck’ and change the interface of the wizard that enter information to the system so that is not text driven. The assumption of tech poverty for people with intellectual disabilities is wrong – but they use it differently to other users, so need to recognise what they use (e.g. smartphones) and adjust to them. Hammering spatial literacy – do we need to solve everything with maps? Can we solve it without it? it is a thing that we need to ask.

Greg Brown – University of Queensland –  The Vexing Problem of Spatial Aggregation in PPGIS/PGIS/VGI for Sustainable Land Use. The problem of spatial aggregation and crowdsourcing. Over 25 studies from different planning contexts  – described at www.landscapevalues.org . Within participatory mapping, terminology is maddening: is it PPGIS, PGIS or VGI? In reviewing the area, he suggests PPGIS (west), PGIS (development), VGI (technology). In PPGIS, which Greg focused on, it is dominated by rational, synoptic planning – but there is an alternative, radical planning that make it all contextualised and situated. Participatory mapping bring three aspects about places: place ecology, place phenomenology (experience) and place management. The breakthrough in PPGIS/PGIS was to move from GIS that focuses on the physical world, to one that is about values and the experiences that people have. We need to get beyond the rhetoric and in participatory mapping we need to improve the substantive quality of decision-making. Is public participation is the wisdom of the crowds or the tyranny of the masses? Crowdsourcing can get better decision-making through Surowiecki type analysis on ‘wisdom of crowd’. In many participatory mapping we haven’t made difference – and there are multiple reasons for it, from concern about the role of expert and the public to regulatory reasons. When you aggregate the data, you have a challenge of how to count the voices. PPGIS/PGIS/VGI have not substantively influenced land use decisions – technology is search of actual impact. The issue is political – how to weight and agree on weighting etc. Bridging the spatial and the political is the challenge.

Patrick Oberle – Syracuse University – Web-Mapping Practices and Challenges in Syracuse, NY. Covering experience in Syracuse Community Geography programme. Syracuse is very poor, and community-based organisations (CBOs) have an important role in the city with lots of CBOs. The main points to explore are neogeography and alow citizen ‘scientists’, democratisation of knowledge production and considering local information. He run a series of local workshops on how to use Google Maps Engine to CBOs and to what degree they support CBOs. He looked a the Syracuse Poster Project (public art with poems), and PEACE inc. which is community action agency, with ‘head start/early start programme for children, and other poverty-reduction programmes. They wanted a map to show where they presented their posters – they created an effective map with details that lead you to prints. It took them 7 months to create map. They had a sense of place that made it easy to adopt cartographic viewpoint – they had narrow goals. PEACE wanted to engage with population and had vague goals of managing their places. They had broad organisation mission and complex needs – which mean that the effort was not successful. They found it hard to dedicate staff to focus on the task. However, even for the poster project it was challenging to work through and deal with technology. Data is also not accessible – in contrast to NYC, Syracuse cannot afford to prepare data for sharing and provide open data. We need to engage the producers of the technologies, need experimentation with technology and processes, and help people to understand the paradigm of data-driven perspective. It is not obvious to unfamiliar organisations and groups. Now that Google Map Engine is discontinued they need to figure out how to move it to a new ways of delivering, but they are capable of recruiting interns.

Muning Wang – University of Washington and Isabel Carrera Zamanillo – University of Washington – Comparing institutional resistance between PGIS VGI, Citizen Science implementation in environmental management. Looking at the way that the information that is provided by the citizens – who use them and for what. From a literature review, they analysed what people do with volunteer collected  geographic information. It is described in education and outreach, land value investigation of landscape planning, TEK in management of fish population, and decision-making support for community conservation. Barriers: credibility, administrative jurisdiction, conflict with existing hierarchies, time that it takes to create collaboration, information capabilities and insufficient direct benefits to managers. Current synthesis – Francis Harvey volunteered vs contributed, Tulloch VGI data/knowledge creation vs PPGIS uses data to make decision, while Lin 2013 aruge that they are intertwined. Haklay argue that VGI/Citizen Science doesn’t provide enough participatory space. Trying to explain the differences is challenging! One way to look is to explore cases. To do the cross-case comparison, they are trying to generalise patterns, using systematic review or meta-analysis. A workshop helps to carry out the analysis of cases. They suggested meta-categories: prupose, environment focus, role of technology, actors interaction and other factors. They analysed 12 cases – but they want to compare more. They want to carry out cross-case comparison and provide analysis across cases, completeness of data collection. They are aiming to demonstrate the diversity of PGIS, VGI, and citizen science projects

Stephen R Appel – University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Department of Geography  – Information Justice and Public Geospatial Data. The aim of his research was to understand the scope and purpose of access to data and in what way data is accessed. The run a survey of municipalities, counties, land information association and then interviews with participants and web site survey. Referred to GIS & Society literature. The aspects of power in access the data and legal issue with data. He found variety of practices among counties in terms of opening and licensing the data. Most counties have web services, but it is variable. Conclusions are – extreme variation in policy, availability, and activities. Most allow academic use, and academic users need to get ready to use web services.

The second session 2253 Looking Backwards and Forwards in Participatory GIS: Session II started with a short discussion, due to gap in the schedule.

Some discussion points started to emerge: how data should be integrated with other systems? how to be inclusive? but also how to make the data active and relevant to decisions and results? How to give voices to people who are marginalised – all participatory process have double objectives: empowerment but also want content that is actionable. Sometime they contradict each other. A very small group of people are participating . Though need to accept that all democratic processes are messy.

Yoshiki Wakabayashi – Tokyo Metropolitan University & Mikoto Kukimoto – Oita University –  Possibilities and Limitations of Childcare Support Maps from the Viewpoint of Participatory GIS. The GeoWeb in Japan became part of the technologies used by government. The relationship between the voluntary sector and government is something need to be explored. Increase maps of childcare support, with about 10% of the total of online maps. There are more working mothers and childcare is an issue that concerns local government. He analysed 360 maps of childcare support in Tokyo Metropolitan Area, defining 3 levels – Level 1 – static, 2 some interaction, 3 – adding data (participatory), using the Sieber and Johnson framework. There are only few examples of level 3. More than half of the maps are interactive, but only few are truly participative. You also see the use of Google Maps as basemap and that increase usability. There are also maps that were made by voluntary group – made by mothers in the Meguro Ward. The group funded by local government, and core group of 5 mothers collected the data. The technical skills include Google Docs, Yahoo! mailing lists. Maps were printed and delivered in community meetings. They also include comments on the map (e.g. ‘cannot enter with buggy’ but also ‘delicious bagel’). The voluntary group cross jurisdiction issues. Maps were also shared on facebook – the purpose of the maps is to make link between community members, exchange childcare information and facilitate face to face communication – so they didn’t want an online map. The conclusion is that the local government maps while web-based, are not encouraging participation.

Renee Sieber – McGill University. Frictionless Civic Participation and the Geospatial Web. The increasing view of participation as frictionless. ‘Participation is very easy now – you just harvest sentiment from twitter or other social media’. She wonder if participation is effortless and in the background – just getting it from extracting what people say on media. In Smart Cities there is a view that the city need to be frictionless. Observations: 1. via frictionlessness participation is increasingly rooted in technocratic governance. The technocracy is setting the problem and the solution, but it’s not to be discussed but to be communicated. 2. Participation is not a transaction. Making public participation as a transaction and not engaging democratically. Relationship between government and citizen as transaction and consumptive experience. 3. Frictionless participation is increasingly unitary & lacks resilience – individuals interacting separately and therefore can’t build movement. 4. Geo-carpetbaggers who can ‘deliver participation’ much faster – computer scientists offer it in a faster way, what is the point in deep engagement if it is possible to create an app in 2 hours. 5. Participation is not 140 characters – it’s not about harvesting stuff for meaning. There is algorithmic regulation to set why you are engaging and who you are. Conclude: we make the assumption that the web/mobile is  democratising – we problematise the government or the private sector, but citizens want convenience and we should challenge them too. Also public on the Internet can be trolls or game the system.

Mike McCall – Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Mexico, with Jeroen Verplanke – ITC University of Twente and Claudia Uberhuaga – Technical University of Madrid – What does PGIS have to learn from VGI/Crowd Sourcing, so that we survive and prosper? PGIS and VGI have common purpose? there are changes in image of authority and offering alternative authority (UGC, citizen science, counter-maps, promoting feelings of Agency. Maybe we should think of VGI.2 – vulgar grounded intelligence. PGIS offer verification – trust, interaction, reputation & accountability. It’s physical, tactile, material, visual and sharing the process which is meaningful. Participation has to be slow and costly per unit of information – even volunteers need compensation. VGI provides speed, currency. Less manipulation – it is very cheap per quantitative unit of information. But the downside of VGI that it doesn’t give 2-way interaction and feedback, no rich data, no FPIC (Free & Prior Informed Consent), transparency and commercialisation. Both forms are open to ‘Elite Capture’. PGIS the question who control the framing or the inputs. The framing is easy to manipulate and take over. Very easily to control. VGI control the aggregation and the framing. The question is: can we speed up PGIS when we need it? That will mean the focus on the results. Most PGIS are short-term work done by NGOs or research organisations. It is one-off because of funding. Also need to think about the scale beyond parochial – broader dissemination in time, broader dissemination in place, share good practices fast. Scale can be in online participatory mapping and we want to make it more participatory – even hinder elite capture. Not to have naive belief in community solidarity or in crowd wisdom. Also where the trust come from -internal and external.

Rina Ghose – University Of Wisconsin Milwaukee – Deconstructing Citizen Participation and Spatial Knowledge Production. Rina looks at places where people are marginalised along class and race – multiple marginalisation. Working since 1993 with community groups in inner city neighbourhood. Very racialised landscape. Strong digital and other divides, and geospatial divides. The context of PPGIS is that in many cities there is a mandate for community participation in the US, participation is not smooth due to neoliberalisation in different form. It leads to inequities and poverty. The collaborative governance model is about public private partnership that are shaped around restructuring the role of the state and reduction of funding to community organisation and social welfare. Service delivery is not done by the state. She use political economy analysis from Kevin Cox work – spaces of dependence where there are some spaces of engagement , with politics of turf. Rhetoric of citizen participation is done through performative acts – volunteerism, self help (right to the city – prove that you are good enough to deserve the rights). Many activists led organisations are being put out of action by removing the funding. In Milwaukee university there is a long tradition of supporting CBOs and can see the complex network. CBOs have challenges such as reduced funding, and they wanted to bring facts to demonstrate the needs are not being met. Role of activists are shifting, but they are asked for rationale for investment and demonstrate professionalism. There is on going data collection and using maps for traditional activities. Using paper maps overlays . Neoliberal rationalities are dictating the way CBOs operate and work. Maps were used to communicate, plan and create spatial strategies – e.g. mapping liquor stores, but also asset mapping to show potential for economic development and show successful project outcomes. Maps are ‘brag sheets’ – demonstrate fiscal outcomes or client demand, dealing with health issues. Neoliberal impacts: spatial knowledge production is shaped by rationalities as project goals. The organisations lack GIS abilities and it is crucial for them to get support from the university and other people who offer help. Politics shape use of data. Is there also neoliberalisation of PPGIS in terms of how it operates? This is an open question.

the third session 2453 Looking Backwards and Forwards in Participatory GIS: Session III included the following

Kumkum Bhattacharyya – Eastern Michigan University, Aditi Sarkar – Indian Statistical Institute – Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) Change Detection in the Ganga-Damodar Region – A Participatory GIS Perspective, which covered participation at government scale, in water and resources management.

Pamela Jean Robinson – Ryerson University and Peter Johnson – Waterloo – Civic Hackthons: New Terrain for Citizen-Local Government Interaction? They been looking at civic hackathons – the empowerment of local communities and their meaning. civic Hackathons are linked to the concept of open data – they are time-limited event (weekend), mix of people – lots of people who can code, with open data and prizes and government host. People work to create the data into play. There is a difference between the civic hackathons and app competition is very different. Are they a form of procurement – are they getting a product outside the usual processes and did the events led to change in government activities? Secondly there is the issue of citizen engagement. In terms of backdoor procurement – is it getting technology for free? Are they get products without proper scrutiny? People have mixed view if open data will improve accountability and processes. Are people exploited and fairly compensating for software development effort? Are there obligations for government to treat people differently?
Civic hacking is new form of civic engagement (Levitas 2013). They went to core values of public participation as defined (core values for the practice of public participation). In hackathon people decide and design how they want to participate and have the information. This is one-off event so how impactful it is. Early finding from researching with government that done hackathon. Actually, there are no products coming out of them and very little procurement happening because sustainability of app development is an issue. There is no concern within participants about virtual sweatshops, but there are concerns in the terms of employment of the municipal staff who spend big part of the weekend on this activity. In terms of engagement, the most important aspect is new space for interaction between municipal staff and community. Different kinds of sharing expertise. What do hackathons mean over time and they are developing hackathon assessment tools. How you have ethics form so it doesn’t kill the process.

Nancy J. Obermeyer, PhD, GISP – Indiana State Univ – Preserving Small Town Cinemas through Crowdsourcing. Nancy talked about how using kickstarter to community asset. The town Batesville, IN is small – 6500 people, Germanic roots. Have industrial history – furniture, medical equipment etc. The Gibson Theatre was around from the 1920s, in small towns, the relationships are familial and know people personally. There was a kickstarter campaign to preserve the place, and they reached out to news stations and that helped them to raise the funding. One of the emerging question in the discussion is the degree of ‘crowdfunding’ community assets, and the abdication of local and national government from protecting and funding heritage – another form of neoliberalisation in which the communities are left to fend for themselves, and because of inequalities, it’s the people without major financial assets who are expected to volunteer their income to such services.

Zachary A. Jones, MA, MS, PhD (ABD) – Eastern Michigan University Using Charrettes and other Pedagogical Tools to Develop Participatory Geospatial Technology Plans and Support Ecojustice Planning Decisions. Using technology in master planing and find a way to education and group pedagogy -and avoid reliance on mechanism and scientism. The knowledge base is usaully of experts, but local stakeholders have lots ofknowledge and there are people without voices – children, non-humans. Sophistication level necessary for GIS operation is high and only small group of experts can use it – surely not general population. A consortium of municipalities (SEMCOG) doesn’t have geospatial information and technology plan as part of their master plans. Growing reliance on GIS and geographic technologies in decision-making creased a deficit for local stakeholders. Would like to adopt PGIS to democratise geospatial information collection and use. Borrow tools for educators and planners -lesson plans (to deal with deficit thinking) and charrettes to encourage decision-making by community members, and expect that to be run by municipalities. Aim to run workshops that explore issues and technologies. Initial sessions explored expectation from PGIS and where it fails. That will be followed by the need to address concepts – master plans, feed of information act, privacy issues, Geographic Information Technologies plan.

Antonello Romano – DISPOC, Università di Siena – Noise busters: noise detection and perception through citizen science approach and crowdsourced information. Exploring gamification of experience about noise in the city aim to increase user contribution. The idea is to put gamification to engage people in problem solving. The aim is to improve data collection – game your place. not to emphasise the competition but to have the playfulness. The objective is to encourage participation and collect data about loudness pollution – used NoiseTube to do data collection. The basic elements are to create the game board, game rule, finding a way to create a situation that everyone win. Game elements are trying to encourage participation and not about the observation itself. The first results – they had 123,500 measurement and 28h of data collection in a week. The geography of games covered the whole city centre. A closer look at the data show level of noise across the area. Highlighting the participatory layer: everyday life, participation, VGI, sociability, problem solving and discovering places.

Finally we had a panel session 2553 Looking Backwards and Forwards in Participatory GIS: Session IV, including Bandana Kar (Chair), and Renee Sieber, Nancy J. Obermeyer, Melinda J. Laituri and myself as panellists.

Renee started the discussion – PPGIS past, present and future, and using a definition which we had many discussion that complexify every aspect of it – is it about marginalised people or increase participation? Skills and abilities continue to be challenges for practitioners. You need to be system admin and developer to run system and maintain them. There is also a numbers game – how many people are involved? Also Social Darwinism – if you can’t deal with the system, it is your problem and we can’t help. PPGIS is seen as effeminate participation compared to proper masculinity in VGI and crowdsourcing. Losing sight of boundaries that matter – such as jurisdictions.

Nancy Obermeyer, students understand that they need GIS knowledge and expertise. GIS is poorly integrated into the curricula of public administration. In public administration and participation – how we get more input from the people that will be effected by the actions that they are making.

Melinda coming from the participatory GIS approach, thinking about fine scale data collection with TEK and indigenous groups – what people want to map and not, how to deal with ethics and what should be mapped. The relationships with the community are complex – what the impact to the people who change the community and long-term changes. To work with responding to disaster and deal with rapid response and activities like mapathons through Mapgive – learning from the success in Haiti response. We need to unpack that a bit more. We need to look linkage between participatory mapping and remote collaborative mapping. Making digitising fun because of the context and atmosphere. Thinking about VGI/PGIS – this is a different approach but need to explore opportunities. 1. start with a blank map or an image? 2. in experience with state department: academics are fish out of the water – what academics need to figure out with the practice? 3. digital divide – don’t assume access to technology and need to think about that 4. education 5. excitement about data collection – how do we analysed that? how that enrich our information base?

My take own take away from the day where the following:  First, in PPGIS there is always an element of ‘conforming (to) the opposition’ (Renee paper from 2001 is relevant here) – and this is how the external governance structure set the agenda of the processes. Secondly, we need to work beyond individualism & neoliberal framing of citizenship and development: this has clearly gone worse over the past 20 years, so in many ways it is not more difficult to do PPGIS. This also mean that we must position PPGIS within the wider context of technology and society (with issues such as 99% and inequality, prevailing cyberlibertarian modes of thinking in technology products that shape society etc.). We need a more nuanced concept of participation: work hard so all voices are heard – but allow people to ‘delegate’ and not actively participate. Some people will be happy just to attend meeting to check that views are like theirs, and other will happy to trust a friend. We should allow for that. The next thing is that because of Big Data, more attention to the end use of the data, ownership and credits are important signifiers of purpose and values. Finally, because of the way tech companies are hijacking social terms, we need to explicitly define empowerment, inclusion, marginalisation, participation and democratisation.

Piotr Jankowsi mentions the power of numbers. We started doing PPGIS on the premise that the right of people to have a say on decisions that influence their life – that’s what PPGIS is about. We try to facilitate the ability to pass information to those in positions of power. Numbers do matter – between 5, 10 or 2000 people. Those who are in position of power tend to listen to bigger groups. When we facilitate public participation, we need to give an avenue for larger number – in order to make it effective.

Cristina Capineri –  noted the need to recognise changes and the way that we need to understand opinions and values which then opened the door for new ways and methodologies that are being used. when we are mapping we deal with problems and challenges in society and work at hyper local levels.

Peter Johnson – increase focus on separation between science and decision-making, how does that fit into encouraging the public to carry out research and doing the work itself? The general view was that it is working side by side with science – not replacing.  There is also funding and stopping funding to the bits of science that are inoffensive. However, I noted that there is a huge increase in people with higher education, and that does create an issue for decision makers, as the general population is more sophisticated and can use information.

Greg Brown pointed that we must notice the mega-trend is that people are losing civic engagement, we have lost of connection to place and decline and knowledge and connection to place. PPGIS works again these trends.

Bandana Kar – there is marginalisation within the PPGIS community, we should keep links. Though it might outlast GIScience.

Piotr – part of the problem with civic engagement is lack of impact. People participate but see no outcomes and they don’t feel that they see the impact. Something need to be done with the results. Greg – need to see the process and the outcomes, and people need to see how the outcomes of the process are based on the consultation.

Mike McCall – there is participation fatigue that growing, and we need to ask question about representativeness which can be manipulated by those involved. Who is selected (even deciding women participation) is important. Using individual maps is different from the community mapping. Can do snowball mapping where the size is growing with each maps. Another point is that starting with a blank map is that people mark their territory, and within it. Satellite or image can be used in suitable context when they are relevant – need to consider context.

Finally, a question was raised to what extent questions are rising from the communities themselves?


Leveraging Crowdsourced data for Agent-based modeling: Opportunities, Examples and Challenges

This week I am attending the AAG Annual Meeting in Chicago. While here, we organized 3 sessions entitled "Geosimulation and Big Data: A Marriage made in Heaven or Hell?" in which I presented a paper, co-authored with Sarah Wise: "Leveraging Crowdsourced data for Agent-based modeling: Opportunities, Examples and Challenges." The abstract is below:
The rise of crowdsourcing has made new kinds of data available to the  geographical community. New forms of data range in their characteristics and purpose. One example is Volunteered Geographical Information (VGI), were users purposely contribute Geographic Information (GI) as in the case of OpenStreetMap; another is Ambient Geographic Information (AGI), where the intention of contributors is not necessarily to provide GI, but GI can be derived, as from Twitter. While much progress has been made in utilizing these new sources of data in GIScience, they have only recently begun to be integrated into agent-based models (ABM). This paper will discuss the opportunities that crowdsourced data provides for ABMs, specifically focusing on how such information gives us a new lens to study the micro-interactions of individuals. Through as series of examples we will demonstrate how such data can be integrated into geographically explicit ABMs. By building on these examples we will showcase how the spatial environment and agent populations can be built using crowdsourced information, and highlight how agent behaviors can be informed and validated by such information. We further discuss the challenges associated with this program of research: using such data is not without its difficulties, including gathering or accessing the data, storing the data, analyzing the collected data, and assessing its validity. Together, this work provides a brief overview of the current state of crowdsourced data-informed ABM. 
If you like what is written above, you can have a flick through the slides from the talk or check out one of the movies:




There was a “mind-boggling” ten tonne fatberg lurking under Chelsea – CityMetric


CityMetric

There was a "mind-boggling" ten tonne fatberg lurking under Chelsea
CityMetric
When I visited his office at the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) the first thing he did was get out a black cap laced with wires and small plastic rings, and make me try it on. Image: author's own. His PhD project, he says, began ...

and more »

AAG 2015 notes – day 1

At 8:00 I’ve attended the Digital Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality at the World’s Economic Peripheries  session asking ‘what difference people expect better connectivity to make at the world’s economic peripheries’. I took notes from the presentations of Nancy Ettlinger, Dorothea Kleine and Lisa Poggiali.

Nancy Ettlinger analysed crwodsourcing from governance perspective – using Foucauldian analysis. She looks at rationalities of non-inventive but skilled activity. There are some differences with innovative activities – but the treatment people is the same. The line between classes and intellectual outputs became blurred – data collection, translation, patterns. Algorithms are managing non-innovative work. There are algorithms that are being deployed turning the crowd into human computers. Third party platforms such as AMT that broker requests for jobs and workers. There is also feedback to the software during the process. Crowdsourcing spanning the globe, and the active learning is going to the computers. The work regime is wage-less with less than $10c for an hour of work. Employment is not linked to payment, and the labour is people on demands – people are commodified – most of the crowd are dispersed and working at home. There are IT people in ‘body shopping’ – code monkeys in the IT industry. Precarisation of the workforce. Acceleration of time to completion of tasks magnifies job insecurity. While the companies are working in the regular economy, the workers are actually in the informal sector, invisible, and insecure. Need to imagine new frontier of resistance across the digital landscape will require cooperative-based on web 3.0 network.

Dorothea Kleine – looks at digital inclusion and female enterpreneurship in chile and Tanzania. ICT4D is an emerging field, a lot are focusing on economic growth – the paper focus on capabilities approach (Amartya Sen). The choice framework provide a way to deal with the capabilities approach. The discourse of ICT4D – includes powerful neoliberal framing. Under which conditions women are invited to be included? In ICT4D, women participation is becoming more central (it wasn’t before). Too much ‘counting of women’ and not on the relationship and power. There is focus on female entrepreneurs – invited to become responsible neoliberal subjects who are ‘excited about change. They are if there are conformist, reformist or transformative approach to what ICT4D is. In Tanzania, they found issues of limited mobility, access to IT only in specific places – many female participants wanted a secure job. In a participatory video, they use videos to explore gender violence – but then it was offered to turn the experience into a venture with films – so instead of transformative, it found a conformist trajectory. In Chile, they follow a group of women learning IT. Only minority explored entrepreneurial activities – wanted to be employed. Business ideas competition an indigenous women won, she lost regular employment in teaching the local language, and because of the lost of the job, she looked for opportunities to get some funding – she was able to charge story telling about indigenous practices. ‘I sell my culture. I am not going to give out information just like that, I can’t’. The knowledge moved from public good, to commodity. Women Enterprise Development discourse is conformist and reformist – and what about the women who are not successful? Conformist trajectory peddling impoverished vision of the world. entrepreneurship.

Lisa Poggiali analysing informal settlement mapping in Muhimu (not the real place name) in Nairobi. There are plenty projects in Nairobi and ICT4D became a topic – Silicon Savannah. Most of the narrative, the iHub received special attention – various events and tech-hub. Muhimu is a place where technology is implemented – Miroslav and Sarah (the people behind the initiative) carried out work with local people to record things that don’t work. Maps are symbolic conduit – there is exclusion of slum dwellers from digital technologies. The maps provide a way to map an area – the land is owned by the state. The mapping project using satellite imagery with donated areal maps they were able to create a representation of their area. The mapping infrastructure will encourage bringing resources – so they mapped sewage, incomplete public toilet. They assume that mapping will lead to action by the project initiators Sarah and Miroslav . The map provides a way to allow the locals to emerge as experts that are respected – it created a sense of anxiety for the participants. Noticing that local data collection can be eclipsed by other, more powerful. There is a dominant narrative of digitisation is about efficiency, and dealing with corruption. The digital is assumed to make corruption impossible. During the period or research, there was no results from the mapping.

At 12:40 1487 Where’s the Value? Emerging Digital Economies of Geolocation (panel session) with Jeremy Crampton, Rob Kitchin, Elvin K. Wyly, Agnieszka Leszczynski, and Julie Cupples. Only captured some of the discussion. It started with the observation that the data brokers need to continue and convince the businesses that there is value in geolocation. Like any other business, big data is sold to businesses as ‘something that works and increase revenue’. This is part of a wider claims about efficiency, productivity etc. Within Smart Cities – there is scepticism by public servants at city level that don’t believe the narrative, so there are situations, such as the UK, where the government invests in ‘creating the market’ for large IT corporations. There is a perception that the data in itself has value. Data will have value down the line.
Regarding the concept of value – Elvin: there is proliferation of what is value – the concept of monetization and turning new things into value. Multi dimensional concept of personhood and it circulate among institutions which construct it. The illusion of the value is preformative in the way that it plays in the world. Julie noted that in universities there is work on creating meaningless correlations from data and offer simplistic policy conclusions.
Julie: People have different levels of technical competancies and therefroe they are locked into a wider system. Quant Self movement is participatory to a larger extent, and subverted by the individual at the same time. There is no way to be outside the system as non-participation is also costly. Rob: there are changes inside – e.g. legal framing as in right to be forgoten, under which condition Uber is allowed to a city. The objects are moving so fast, and the legal situation has not captured their operation and come with solutions. Although this is self serving narrative, there is a question about to what degree it is possible to put the genie back in the bottle – although it is possible to consider to legislate ‘privacy by design’. Agnieszka noted that teens and social media that there are complex and creative approaches to have anonymity and obscurity that are happening. Many teenagers disabled location information in apps – different cohorts are working differently with the services. We want to control flows of information about ourselves, but we can’t do that – we don’t know who got our data and what they put it for. Rob: the project ‘the Secret life of Data’ provide an insight to the black boxes through which data is travelling. Elvin: there is digital Murphy Law is operating – there are conflicting laws in operations that conflict with each other and can’t work towards common goals.
Rob: doing the work and critiquing Big Data, there is plenty of inertia and resistance within the political system so neo-liberalism is not the only force in operation. The global financial crisis amplified neo-liberalism instead of causing it to think. Sharing economy is worsening the conditions of labour.  It is easy to see technology in utopia or dystopia, but it is important to understand how it shaped and evolve. Elvin: there is struggle between utopia/dystopia – we need to be careful of Silicon Valley libertarian approach that information is only good. Rob: There is an alternative to the California Ideology if you want to compete with them. The effort of merging data is fairly challenging.

2:40 1587 #CritGIS: Social Justice and GIS: Past, Present, and Future –  aimed to ‘reflect, reconsider, and prognosticate on the social, political and ethical issues that GIS brings to bear’. The paper in this session included the following.

Clinton Davies looked how reporting of social care work at disciplinary tools to produce power structures. Specifically looking at Homeless Management Information Systems. Data reporting reinforce structures through the different organisations. Looking at Critical GIS and Critical Data Studies. The act of reporting data- what the reporting does? looking how controlling how people go through their everyday, you get an understanding of the power hierarchies. Part of the question is to see if the information system and data management impacted organisational structures such as mergers.

Jonathan Cinnamon looked at ‘The data divide: Placing data in the context of social justice’. Data-driven economy emerged recently, with data as raw material, but there is also interest in the concept of data – there is little inquiry to data in compared to information and knowledge. Kitchin (2014) noted the need to ask what data are and what they do? What force data have in the material world? What divisions are inscribed in the data landscapes? Some the division are being exposed – between data rich/poor , producer/consumer , and people/their data. Rich/poor – the places and people who can produce data or use it. The second gap is between producer and consumer – those that produce data have the ability to shape the world. The producers shape the world according to their worldview. There is also separation between people and the data that they produce.
The questions – what are the social and material consequences of these divides? What tools social justice theory can be used? Harvey in ‘Social Justice and the City ‘ defined social justice as ‘a just distribution justly arrived at’ – Rawls justice theory was and is influential in geography.
However, Nancy Fraser work on justice is useful – we living in abnormal justice in what, who and how of justice and deeply contested. It is difficult to evaluate it. She suggest principle of parity of participation – justice require social arrangement that permit all to participate as peers in social life. She identifies maldistribution, misrecognition, and misrepresentation as the dimensions of justice. So we can see in data divide the maldistribution of uneven geographies and at the city level and between cities. There is also misrecognition in status hierarchy – none counting in the census, or Manovich (2011) concept of data-classes. There is also misrepresntation within the companies that are collecting data are subject to laws of a different teritory and you can’t have proper political control. He argue that open data movement as attempt to redistribute data, recognition can be a movement to reconnect people with their data and give them control over it.

Ellen Kersten described her PhD work in  ‘Spatial triage, spatial justice? A critical evaluation of geospatial approaches to health equity research and policy’ – She looked at health in terms of medical model and a socio-ecological model. Looking at Amartya Sen definition of health equity, with elements from public policy, place and health, community development and critical GIS. Spatial analysis of health equity in terms of life expectancy for example. There is an element of place that appear in these narratives. She compared quantitative tools that are based on GIS but they are missing many aspects that are missing and not captured in numbers so simply. These health atlases play the role of triage to decide who will get funding and who won’t. In the past, spatial triage was used in public renewal and done by experts, targeting neighbourhoods. Today, it is cauched in ‘best return to investment’, a bit more participation but the scale counties/regions and above, and more organisations are involved. The future seem to go further to return on investment and monetary benefits.

Jill Gambill and Mariana Alfonso  – A Radical Trans-Disciplinary Approach to Sea Level Rise Planning in the Southeast. They explore challenges – coastal communities are facing challenges of climate change, but with denial – political ban on climate change discussion while at the same time there is a need for sea level rise planning, and trying to do something about it. Knowledge productions – one in theory and one in politics and actions. Communities in the Souteast of the US are trying to have climate change adaptation policies and actions so they are ready. The approach is to meet communities where they are and having a dialogue – how to deal with flooding and sea level rise and not the source of it. Thinking what will enable the dialogue. The community decide the see level rise that will be model, identify who is vulnerable and then decide on actions. They make information accessible – they develop graphics that helped communicate history of sea level rise. They are focusing on who will pay the costs of climate adaptation – with valuable areas receiving subsidy, so some of the wealthy areas are benefiting. Retreat is something that is not being discussed yet – just starting. The approaches are around engineering resistance, instead of resilience – expensive infrastructure have life span of just 25 years. There are also revealed preferences in action, as in allowing more building in vulnerable places. Doing the modelling with GIS is challenging – you don’t want to create an impression of safety when there isn’t one. Need to visualise the social implications of issues such as sea level rise.


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