Sunday, January 25, 2015

VGI as Big Data

Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) is a term that can also be called "big data." Applications such as Foursquare utilize and are involved in the creation of big data. However, this is just one of the many tools that companies and businesses use to track certain data about their customers. The companies use the data/geodemographics to analyze customers, target groups, and ideal sale regions for the company's benefits.
This is a graph depicting movement using the Twitter application.

This type of data is coined "volunteered" simply because the users of the applications are considered volunteers by partaking in the use of the application. This information is collected through geographical datasets that are generated by the users and are put to use by companies and businesses. VGI can be considered a commodity in this aspect, because data is analyzed and applied for economic decision-making processes. One main problem with VGI is that the datasets don't allow for any definitive and respected interpretation of what is represented. There is a lack of knowledge and understanding about motives and contexts of the users, so a well informed analysis of the data is hardly possible. Perhaps the other main problem is the argument of whether the information is truly "volunteered" or not. Users go online and utilize the uses of the applications that are popular today, such as Twitter, Foursquare, and Flickr. It is argued that they are not using those applications in order to provide information to a third party for the process of geodemographic profiling. In contrast, it is argued that they simply wish to participate in the everyday uses of the applications.
This image shows tourist density that is calculated from the Flickr database.

Fischer, F. (2012). VGI as Big Data: A new but delicate geographic data-source. GeoInformatics15(3), 46-47.


  1. Volunteered Geographical Information (VGI) seems very useful and since it is volunteered data, it makes it easily accessible. However, what makes it a useful tool, also makes it unreliable. Since almost anyone has access to it, businesses and companies that use it take a risk when using it for economic decision making. If companies lie economic decisions solely on VGI, there may be information provided that is completely wrong.

  2. What is the percentage of bad information that makes it into VGI? Research should be done into the rate of misinformation that makes it into the system.

  3. I'm curious as to the limit of when information is considered "volunteered" to when it's considered "private." I'm also curious as to how safe this information is being kept. Certain apps keep track of your locations, and if that information gets into the hands of the wrong people, you could have a real issue with privacy and safety.