Some colleagues (Shilad Sen, Heather Ford, Dave Musicant, Oliver Keyes, Brent Hecht) and I have put together a paper for CHI on Barriers to the Localness of Volunteered Geographic Information. The paper asks important questions about both the geographies of information, and the factors that explain those geographies. This work forms an important part of our attempts to understand where Sub-Saharan Africa fits into a global ‘knowledge economy.’
Localness is an oft-cited benefit of volunteered geographic information (VGI). This study examines whether localness is a constant, universally shared benefit of VGI, or one that varies depending on the context in which it is produced. Focusing on articles about geographic entities (e.g. cities, points of interest) in 79 language editions of Wikipedia, we examine the localness of both the editors working on articles and the sources of the information they cite. We find extensive geographic inequalities in localness, with the degree of localness varying with the socioeconomic status of the local population and the health of the local media. We also point out the key role of language, showing that information in languages not native to a place tends to be produced and sourced by non-locals. We discuss the implications of this work for our understanding of the nature of VGI and highlight a generalizable technical contribution: an algorithm that determines the home country of the original publisher of online content.
You can access a copy of the paper here:
Sen, S. W., Ford, H., Musicant, D. R., Graham, M., Keyes, O. S. B., Hecht, B. 2015 Barriers to the Localness of Volunteered Geographic Information. CHI 2015 (pre-publication version here).
And you can also watch a screencast (excellently narrated by our own Heather Ford) of our forthcoming interactive map tool: