As we have pointed out in this blog, we have had the capability to create story maps (multimedia-rich, live web maps) for a few years now, and we have also had the capability to collect data via crowdsourcing and citizen science methods using a variety of methods. But now the capability exists for both to be used at the same time–one way is with the new crowdsourcing story map app from Esri.
The crowdsource story map app joins the other story map apps that are listed here. To get familiar with this new app, read this explanation. Also, you might explore a new crowdsourced story map that, after selecting “+ Participate”, prompts you for your location, photograph, and a sentence or two about attending, in this case, the Esri User Conference. If you did not attend, examining the application will give you a good sense for what this new app can do.
It’s not just this story map that has me interested. It is that this long-awaited capability is now at our fingertips, where you can, with this same app, create crowdsourced story maps for gathering data on such things as tree cover, historic buildings, noisy places, litter, weird architecture, or something else, on your campus or in your community. It is in beta, but feel free to give this crowdsourcing story map app a try.
We have also discussed location privacy concerns both here and in our book. The story Map Crowdsource app is different from the other Story Maps apps in that it enables people to post pictures and information onto your map without logging in to your ArcGIS Online organization. Thus, the author does not have complete control over what content appears in a Crowdsource story. Furthermore, the contributor’s current location, such as their current street address or locations they have visited, can be exposed in a Crowdsource app and appear with their post in these maps as a point location and as text. This may be fine if your map is collecting contributions about water quality, invasive plant species, or interesting places to visit in a city, where these location are public places. But it may not be desirable for other subject matter or scenarios, especially if people may be posting from their own residence.
Thus, it is up to you as the author of a Story Map Crowdsource app to ensure that your application complies with the privacy and data collection policies and standards of your organization, your community, and your intended audience. You might wish to set up a limited pilot or internal test of any Story Map Crowdsource project before deploying and promoting it publicly in order to review if it meets those requirements. And for you as a user of these maps, make sure that you are aware that you are potentially exposing the location of your residence or workplace, and make adjustments accordingly (generalizing your location to somewhere else in your city, for example) if exposing these locations are of concern to you).
Thus, the new crowdsource story map app is an excellent example of both citizen science and location privacy.
In our book and in this blog, we often focus on crowdsourcing, citizen science, and the Internet of Things. Mapillary, a tool that allows anyone to create their own street level photographs, map them, and share them via web GIS technology, fits under all three of these themes. The idea behind Mapillary is a simple but powerful one: Take photos of a place of interest as you walk, bicycle, or drive using the Mapillary mobile app. Next, upload the photos to Mapillary again using the app. Your photos will be mapped and connected with other Mapillary photos, and combined into street level photo views. Then you can explore your places and those from thousands of other users around the world.
Mapillary is part of the rapidly growing crowdsourcing movement, also known as citizen science, which seeks to generate “volunteered geographic information” content from ordinary citizens. Mapillary forms part of the Internet of Things (IoT) because people are acting as sensors across the global landscape using this technology. Mapillary is more than a set of tools–it is a community, with its own MeetUps and ambassadors. Mapillary is also a new Esri partner, and through an ArcGIS integration, local governments and other organizations can understand their communities in real-time, and “the projects they’re working on that either require a quick turnaround or frequent updates, can be more streamlined.” These include managing inventory and city assets, monitoring repairs, inspecting pavement or sign quality, and assessing sites for new train tracks. One of Mapillary’s goals was to provide street views in places where no Google Street Views exist.
Many organizations are using Mapillary: For example, the Missing Maps Project is a collaboration between the American Red Cross, British Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières-UK (MSF-UK, or Doctors Without Borders-UK), and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. The project aims to map the most vulnerable places in the developing world so that NGOs and individuals can use the maps and data to better respond to crises affecting these areas.
Using the discovery section on Mapillary, take a tour through the ancient city Teotihuacán in Mexico, Astypalaia, one of the Dodecanese Islands in Greece, Pompeii, or Antarctica. After you create an account and join the Mapillary community, you can access the live web map and click on any of the mapped tracks.
Mapillary can serve as an excellent way to help your students, clients, customers, or colleagues get outside, think spatially, use mobile apps, and use geotechnologies. Why stop at streets? You could map trails, as I have done while hiking or biking, or map rivers and lakes from a kayak or canoe. There is much to be mapped, explored, studied, and enjoyed. If you’d like extra help in mapping your campus, town, or field trip with Mapillary, send an email to Mapillary and let the team know what you have in mind. They can help you get started with ideas and tips (and bike mounts, if you need them).
For about two years, I have been using Mapillary to map trails and streets. I used the Mapillary app on my smartphone, generating photographs and locations as I hiked along. One of the trails that I mapped is shown below and also on the global map that everyone in the Mapillary community can access. I have spoken often with the Mapillary staff and salute their efforts.
We look forward to hearing your reactions and how you use this tool.
If you are a frequent reader of this blog or of technology related news feeds, it should come as no surprise that location has rapidly become one of the basic means of communicating, marketing, and crowdsourcing in our modern world. Is the data that you are inadvertently communicating through your mobile device that powers many web mapping services via crowdsourcing making our world more efficient and sustainable? Take the common example of your position moving through traffic, communicated from location information on your smartphone, calculated using the miracle of web mapping technology into speed, and combined with others to create real-time information about which routes are currently running sluggishly and which are running quickly in your metropolitan area. Most would argue that yes, this does make people’s commutes more efficient by saving time. Moreover, it saves fuel through a multiplier effect if even a fraction of the vast number of people commuting at any given time around the world adjust their behavior by avoiding traffic snarls and idling their engines.
Is that same data compromising your personal privacy? Most would probably argue that while each of us gives up a bit of location privacy for these real time traffic feeds, the resulting public benefit far outweighs the costs. An analogy from the 1990s might be the personal information that most of us shared with grocery businesses in order to obtain a ‘discount card’ from our local food store.
The “tipping point” of concern for some on the personal privacy seems to be where location services allow you, and by extension, depending on the application, anyone, to see your own personal location and movements over time. For example, examine this page describing how location reporting from an iPhone and iPad allows Google to store a history of your location devices where you are logged into your Google account and have enabled location history, or related articles about Android devices. There are ways to override this location history, but it takes just that–overriding the defaults, and–will this override be possible in the future?
I checked, and I don’t have any location history, at least in Google. But would it matter if I did? As a person who loves and works with maps on a daily basis, part of me was a little disappointed, actually, that I couldn’t see what I thought might be a fascinating set of maps showing some of my field work over the past few months, which included some brisk but pleasant walks along the lakefront in Chicago during the AAG annual meeting and a trek through a wetland in Wisconsin afterwards.
I frequently work with secondary and university students, and in my conversations with them, I’ve noticed that the younger generation generally doesn’t see a problem with sharing anything in the digital world, whether it is their location, photos, videos, links, whatever. So, is it just my generation that is a wee bit nervous about the potential harm that could result from personal data being mined? Should other generations be concerned? Our goal in this blog and in our book is to raise awareness of the power and utility of geospatial information, and also to critically assess its quality,use, and implications.
A few years ago, I walked on the pier at Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and after mapping my route, reflected on issues of resolution and scale in this blog. After recording my track on my smartphone in an application called RunKeeper, it appeared on the map as though I had been walking on the water! This, of course, was because the basemap did not show the pier or the fill adjacent to the marina. Recently, following the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers, I had the opportunity to retrace my steps and revisit my field site. What has changed in the past 2 1/2 years? Much.
As shown below, the basemap used by RunKeeper has vastly improved in that short amount of time. The pier and fill is now on the map, and note the other differences between the new map and the one from 2012 below that appears below it–schools, trails, contour lines, and other features are now available. A 3-D profile is available now as well. Why? The continued improvement of maps and geospatial data from local, regional, federal, and international government agencies plays a role. We have a plethora of data sources to choose from, as is evident in our recent post about Dr Karen Payne’s list of geospatial data and the development of Esri’s Living Atlas of the World. The variety and resolution of base maps in ArcGIS Online and in other platforms continues to expand and improve at an rapid pace.
Equally significant, and some might argue more significant, is the role that crowdsourcing is having on the improvement of maps and services (such as traffic and weather feeds). In fact, even in this example, note the “improve this map” text that appears in the lower right of the map, allowing everyday fitness app users the ability to submit changes that will be reviewed and added to RunKeeper’s basemap. What does all of this mean for the the data user and GIS analyst? Maps are improving at a dizzying pace due to efforts by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, academia, private companies, and the ordinary citizen. Yet, scale and resolution still matter. Critically thinking about data and where it comes from still matters. Fieldwork that uses ordinary apps can serve as an effective instructional technique. It is indeed an exciting time to be in the field of geotechnologies.
The map from 2012 is below.