FIGURE 11.2 The map on the left shows part of the street network in Mogadishu, Somalia, available in Google Earth (top) and Microsoft Virtual Earth (bottom). The map on the right showing the same region, but with streets supplied by VGI in OpenStreetMap. org, provides information of considerable use to international development and humanitarian relief organizations. SOURCE: www.developmentseed.org/tags/mapping (accessed January 20, 2010).

FIGURE 11.2 The map on the left shows part of the street network in Mogadishu, Somalia, available in Google Earth (top) and Microsoft Virtual Earth (bottom). The map on the right showing the same region, but with streets supplied by VGI in OpenStreetMap. org, provides information of considerable use to international development and humanitarian relief organizations. SOURCE: www.developmentseed.org/tags/mapping (accessed January 20, 2010).

THE ROLE OF THE GEOGRAPHICAL SCIENCES

Most citizen mapping involves the use of the Internet. Some view the Internet as a technology that is abolishing the significance of geographical location and distance (e.g., Cairncross, 1997), but there is much evidence to the contrary. As noted in The Economist (2003):

It was naive to imagine that the global reach of the Internet would make geography irrelevant. Wireline and wireless technologies have bound the virtual and physical worlds closer than ever…. Actually, geography is far from dead. Although it is often helpful to think of the Internet as a parallel digital universe, or an omnipresent “cloud,” its users live in the real world where limitations of geography still apply. And these limitations extend online. Finding information relevant to a particular place, or the location associated with a specific piece of information, is not always easy.

It follows that geographical context is relevant to any discussion of the nature and implications of VGI and its enabling technologies. VGI is often made possible through the use of geographically enabled “smartphones,” personal digital assistants or PDAs (i.e., handheld computers), digital cameras, and vehicle navigation systems. These devices are equipped with ready-made maps and Global Positioning System receivers, further empowered by a location-based service (LBS). LBS is an information service provided by a device that knows where it is and then uses that knowledge to select, transform, and modify the information that it returns to the user. Hence the device can supply driving or walking directions to businesses, restaurants, and automated teller machines; find other users in close proximity; or even send alerts, such as when a user is approaching a traffic jam or accident. Peter Batty (a former chief technology officer of two leading geographic information system [GIS] companies) has recently introduced whereyougonnabe.com, which takes this kind of networking one step further by allowing users to tell their friends where and when they plan to be located in the future.

There is growing concern that the proliferation of technologies and the production of detailed, micro-level spatial data are outpacing our ability to protect information about individuals. The same techniques that allow Web users to create mashups by linking infor-



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