A typical geographer: Map, compass and notebook. How long will he still exist in a world full of computers, cellphones and internet.
By now ordinary persons take tasks, that were done by agencies and civil service specialized for geodata. Why? How can it be, that unlearned people deal with geodata? When, where and why do they do it? Neogeography and Volunteered Geographic Information are terms that relate to this topic. They describe concepts of this new phenomena and define unclear questions.
First of all there should be a look on the server-client-model and how it changes. Until now it said, that a client sends a request to a server. This server edits it and, if possible, sends an answer back to the client. What changes now, is the role of the client. He is no longer the inactive part but becomes active by dealing with the contents of the internet by himself and shaping them. A central term is “Web 2.0”. Web 2.0, also called Social Web or Social Media, is understood as the age of the internet in which the consumer (user) becomes a so called prosumer. The user does not only download stuff but he also feeds in own website content. He can further edit, correct, comment and value many things that are already online. The new user is not only consumer but more a producer in the world of this unbelievable network. Wikipedia and Wikimapia, Flickrr, Twitter and Facebook, as well as OpenStreetMap or GoogleMaps are just a few examples.
In addition to the social web there is another conception which is very meaningful and interesting in reference to integrate users in designing the internet and its content. Especially now, in the age of smart phones, a huge part of population has access to the internet (almost) always and everywhere. Influenced by this fact the idea of VGI (Volunteered Geographic Information) gets more importance. It is used for example in crisis management. Behind the idea of VGI there are many technologies, that make fast and simple handling with spatial data possible. First of all, there is geocoding to get a reference. Without geocoding we could not be able to make precise localization, even if we have the place names. To help for example to reconstruct an accident situation, we need to have coordinates in order to make clear statements about the position. A simple tool for first steps is GPS (Global Positioning System). Also Geotags, Graphics and broadband communication become highly significant so as to get localized in a simple, fast and very accurate way.
All those aspects stand under the topic of Neogeography. The term describes the return of geography in the area of information systems, mainly by becoming a strong part of Web 2.0. Neogeographers are equipped with new tools like GoogleMap Creator or MapTube, all services, that are called mash-ups. Mash-up is the name for websites that are able to integrate data from all kinds of sources and connect them to a Single-User-Service. Of course there is many more concepts coming up with the social web like the Spatial Data Infrastructure, that is nowadays seen as a patchwork-system. The capture, edition and initialization of geodata is not anymore only the challenge of agencies but now the duty of many participants – companies, community facilities and private persons. The agencies should have the new task of arranging a standard for this spread work, in order to help combining all results.
Yet another topic, which I think is very impressing, is the idea of “Humans as sensors”. The model characterizes three different sensors. Those, that are static and inactive (thermometer), and those, that are carried by animals, humans and vehicles. The third and new sensor is seen in the human himself. A human can five senses and his intelligence to experience and interpret what is going on around him. If he notes what he sees, feels, hears and so on, he can help to collect spatial information. Sounds like a great thing, coming back to trust people and their capability to value. Are we leaving the image of a unreliable and failing human behind us?
It seems to be a great chance, everybody can join. Everyone? I do not own a smart phone...
Schindler, M. & Liller, T. (2012): PR im Social Web. Das Handbuch für Kommunikationsprofis ; Medienwandel und Web 2.0 verstehen, von Praktikern und Experten lernen, nachhaltige Strategien entwickeln. Köln: O'Reilly.
Goodchild, M. (2007): Citizens as sensors: the world of volunteered geography. Online:Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Hudson-Smith, A.; Crooks, A.; Gibin, M.; Milton, R. & Batty, M. (2009): NeoGeography and Web 2.0: concepts, tools and applications. In: Journal of Location Based Services Vol. 3, No. 2, S.118–145.