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Title:Participants' motivations to contribute geographic information in an online community
Author(s):Budhathoki, Nama R.
Director of Research:Bruce, Bertram C.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Nedović-Budić, Zorica
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Bruce, Bertram C.; Hopkins, Lewis D.; Haythornthwaite, Caroline A.; Haklay, Mordechai
Department / Program:Urban & Regional Planning
Discipline:Regional Planning
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Web 2.0
Volunteered Geographic Information
Citizen Science
Spatial Data Infrastructure
Online Community
Peer Production
Abstract:This dissertation examines volunteered geographic information (VGI), a Web 2.0 phenomenon in which users contribute geographic information online and collaboratively create maps. By examining the case of, I clarify why people contribute geographic information to an online community and offer a framework for researching different aspects of the phenomenon. I also outline its implications for expert-oriented production and propose a hybrid model for spatial data infrastructure. I find this topic interesting particularly because it defies the traditional mode and offers a new mode of production and use of geographic information. The dissertation uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods of inquiry. I analyzed about 3,000 archived text messages (user conversations called ‘talk-pages’ in OpenStreetMap) and contributions from about 34,000 users between 2004 and 2009. I then conducted a survey to reach globally distributed contributors and tested a set of hypotheses regarding their underlying motives for contributing to VGI. I find that an individual’s local knowledge about geospatial situations is the most significant motivation. When they see that the areas they care about are blank or erroneously mapped, this invokes the instrumentality of their local knowledge. Individuals realize that they are in possession of knowledge about the areas they live and travel, and they are better positioned to update and correct maps than remote agencies. This realization brings their self-efficacy into play and drives them into mapping. For the contributors of an online geographic information community, the map is a way to manifest their identity and a means of representation in cyberspace. In addition to the instrumentality of local knowledge, I find that self view and monetary motivations have a positive effect on a contributor’s likelihood to be a serious mapper (i.e., contribute much more than average contributors). This challenges the speculative and anecdotal claim that altruism is the primary motivation in VGI. In addition to geographic information, the findings of this dissertation have implications for the development of other online communities, local and regional planning, and governance and citizen participation. People’s desire to contribute local knowledge should not be understood in limited terms of the geometric primitives of point, line, and polygon; rather, it should be interpreted as an expression of a desire to participate in the broad processes of social, cultural, and technological transformation. If this excitement can be tapped, it will set a new stage for participatory discourse with government and fellow citizens. The resulting collective intelligence might prove to be an asset for transforming 21st century societies.
Issue Date:2010-08-31
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Nama R. Budhathoki
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-08-31
Date Deposited:2010-08

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