Volunteered Geographic Information: the nature and motivation of produsers

David Coleman, Yola Georgiadou, Jeff Labonte


Advances in positioning, Web mapping, cellular communications and wiki technologies have surpassed the original visions of GSDI programs around the world. By tapping the distributed knowledge, personal time and energy of volunteer contributors, GI voluntarism is beginning to relocate and redistribute selected GI productive activities from mapping agencies to networks of non-state volunteer actors. Participants in the production process are both users and producers, or ‘produsers’ to use a recent neologism. Indeed, GI voluntarism ultimately has the potential to redistribute the rights to define and judge the value of the produced geographic information and of the new production system in general. The concept and its implementation present a rich collection of both opportunities and risks now being considered by leaders of public and private mapping organizations world-wide. In this paper, the authors describe and classify both the types of people who volunteer geospatial information and the nature of their contributions. Combining empirical research dealing with the Open Source software and Wikipedia communities with input from selected national mapping agencies and private companies, the authors offer different taxonomies that can help researchers clarify what is at stake with respect to geospatial information contributors. They identify early lessons which may be drawn from this research, and suggest questions which may be posed by large mapping organizations when considering the potential opportunities and risks associated with encouraging and employing Volunteered Geographic Information in their programs.


volunteered geographic information (VGI), volunteers, produsers, spatial data infrastructure, crowdsourcing, urban sensing

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