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Implications of Volunteered Geographic Information for Disaster Management and GIScience: A More Complex World of Volunteered Geography

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Abstract

Volunteered geographic information (VGI) refers to changing practices in recent years associated with technological advancements that provide increasing opportunities for private citizens to produce geographic information. VGI activities range from public contributions to online crowdsourced mapping projects to location-related posts on social media sites. These changing practices have important implications for citizens, traditional authoritative systems of geographic knowledge production, and the disciplines of geography and GIScience. One field affected by VGI is disaster management, with numerous studies reporting on the opportunities associated with increased citizen data and involvement in crisis response. There are also significant limitations to the application of VGI, however, notably related to scale, the digital divide, trust, uneven power relations, and adaptability of existing authoritative systems, such as formal emergency management. In this article, these issues and more are critically discussed through examination of three discreet yet related studies of VGI in community bushfire (wildfire) risk reduction in Australia. Although each study has its own unique contributions already published, the collective insight gained by analyzing the studies together provides new and deeper perspectives on critical issues of relevance to both disaster management policies and geography and GIScience. Importantly, the article advocates for greater emphasis on the social aspect of VGI, with citizens mapping and sharing knowledge together, rather than on individual observations and large volumes of data. Further, it raises questions of some of the much-promoted promises of VGI, particularly those that suggest that VGI can allow “everyone” to contribute to geographic knowledge production.
... The growth and evolution of EO technologies and their applications in DRR have been rapid and transformational (Scull et al. 2016). The changes have had profound effects on DRR as every new incident has been seen to trigger some new innovation in the EO realm in as much as dealing with the disaster concerned (Haworth 2018). For example during the Haiti earthquake in 2010, there was widespread use of crowdsourced maps, created by a web of volunteers. ...
... All disasters raise ethical issues, questions and contestations. DRR stakeholders are now starting to take notice of the ethical issues and contestations brought about by disaster responses that disseminate EO datasets (Haworth 2018). As a developing field, disaster ethics tries to gain an in-depth understanding of handling ethical issues during disaster periods. ...
... To this end, it followed a civil defence model, which is mostly a top-down approach. Furthermore, the process of emergency management was mainly reactive and largely geared towards operation during the actual disaster event (Haworth 2018). Approaches to disaster management have since evolved to place at the core communities and their vulnerabilities, as well as moving from emergency response to risk reduction with increased public participation (Manyena et al. 2011). ...
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The impact of tropical cyclones and hurricanes on critical infrastructure that includes energy is at times equated to that of weapons of mass destruction. From the electricity side, the literature indicates that both wooden and steel transmission poles go down due to severe winds and weakened ground from the cyclones, raising matters pertaining to their design and at times their age. This research focuses on assessing the severity of the destruction of energy infrastructure from Tropical Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe. The cyclone hit Zimbabwe on 15 March 2019 as a category 3 cyclone. It emerges that there were severe electricity outages that plunged Chimanimani into total darkness, with power only partially restored after a month. Destroyed powerlines further resulted in negative knock-on effects that included the disruption of public utility services such as water supply, telecommunications and businesses, all of which had a negative effect on livelihoods. Three private mini hydropower stations were extensively damaged, one washed away completely. Liquid fuel distribution was also disrupted as the roads network was destroyed which rendered the Chimanimani area inaccessible for more than a week. During the record period of the restoration of power, the building back better (BBB) concept was applied, resulting in the installation of thicker transmission lines and stronger transmission poles. The work recommends that new energy infrastructure should be installed that is resilient to tropical cyclones and other extreme weather events.
... The growth and evolution of EO technologies and their applications in DRR have been rapid and transformational (Scull et al. 2016). The changes have had profound effects on DRR as every new incident has been seen to trigger some new innovation in the EO realm in as much as dealing with the disaster concerned (Haworth 2018). For example during the Haiti earthquake in 2010, there was widespread use of crowdsourced maps, created by a web of volunteers. ...
... All disasters raise ethical issues, questions and contestations. DRR stakeholders are now starting to take notice of the ethical issues and contestations brought about by disaster responses that disseminate EO datasets (Haworth 2018). As a developing field, disaster ethics tries to gain an in-depth understanding of handling ethical issues during disaster periods. ...
... To this end, it followed a civil defence model, which is mostly a top-down approach. Furthermore, the process of emergency management was mainly reactive and largely geared towards operation during the actual disaster event (Haworth 2018). Approaches to disaster management have since evolved to place at the core communities and their vulnerabilities, as well as moving from emergency response to risk reduction with increased public participation (Manyena et al. 2011). ...
Chapter
It often happens that communities give names to things with meanings attached and by their very nature names carry connotations. Names can remind us of the history of a generation, an event, a religious belief and more. However, when it comes to cyclones (or hurricanes or typhoons in other regions) what remains puzzling to many is how the names are conceived. Contestations have emerged in that such names were traditionally feminine and without local meaning. This study investigates the way in which tropical cyclones are named with particular reference to Cyclone Idai. It also documents how the people in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, who were affected by the cyclone felt about the name and its implications. Drawing mainly from a methodological orientation including document and critical discourse analysis, as well as interviews and a household survey, it emerged that the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) named it Cyclone Idai, while the locals know it better as Dutumupengo (one hell of a troublesome storm). Some locals were not impressed by the name given by the WMO, although these names already exist in a register long before the cyclones happen. It was just a coincidence that Idai happened to be a Shona name and was also named by a Zimbabwean meteorologist. The work recommends that local communities and political heads be educated concerning the naming of tropical cyclones so that there is no confusion or frustration. Furthermore, there is a need for a compromise, with local communities being given a chance to maintain their local names and/or refine them so that they have meaning. Local and national registers with agreed national names may then be part of a country’s heritage.
... The use of internet technologies (such as social media platforms) is important both in translating disaster information for a broad audience to reduce information asymmetries [27] and in providing valuable information at the country level before, during, and after a disaster event that could significantly help to minimise the consequences of the event and improve the preparedness of the residents [28]. Geographic information also plays a significant role, ranging from public contributions to online crowdsourced mapping projects and location-related posts on social media sites [29]. In this context, mobile broadband provides overwhelming gains in information accessibility, scalability, and affordability, allowing people affected by a disaster to close the numerous development gaps at the highest speed ever recorded, without the outlay of traditional infrastructure [30]. ...
... The actions emerging from the experts' discussions have been integrated with actions defined starting from a desk analysis of SDGs and ICT technologies and tools for disaster management [21,[24][25][26][27][28][29]33], providing suggestions from a wider point of view. ...
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This paper analyses the role of information and communications technology (ICT) in supporting the implementation of the actions to be undertaken by the various actors of the Quadruple Helix (science, policy, industry, and society) in case of a disaster through the lens of sustainable development. A two-step methodology consisting of an online forum discussion with experts from SSH and ICT fields and a desk analysis of sustainable development goals and ICT tools for disaster management has been adopted. A set of actions that Quadruple Helix actors should implement under the ten sustainable development goals related to disaster risk reduction is provided in the paper. The role of ICT in favoring the implementation of the actions for achieving the sustainable development goals is underlined.
... 56). VGI not only enabled the active contributions of individuals but also offered new norms and forms in information conditions as well as power relations at all levels that can lead to integrating authoritative epistemologies with a more open and local representation through an appropriate collaboration mode [69,125,136]. However, there is an ongoing debate about the level of authorities' involvement and enforcement of regulations, the scope, structure, and outcomes of VGI projects that are mainly citizen-led initiatives [67,81]. ...
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Resilience in the urban context can be described as a continuum of absorptive, adaptive, and transformative capacities. The need to move toward a sustainable future and bounce forward after any disruption has led recent urban resilience initiatives to engage with the concept of transformative resilience when and where conventional and top-down resilience initiatives are less likely to deliver effective strategies, plans, and implementable actions. Transformative resilience pathways emphasize the importance of reflexive governance, inclusive co-creation of knowledge, innovative and collaborative learning, and self-organizing processes. To support these transformative pathways, considering techno-social co-evolution and digital transformation, using new data sources such as Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) and crowdsourcing are being promoted. However, a literature review on VGI and transformative resilience reveals that a comprehensive understanding of the complexities and capacities of utilizing VGI for transformative resilience is lacking. Therefore, based on a qualitative content analysis of available resources, this paper explores the key aspects of using VGI for transformative resilience and proposes a comprehensive framework structured around the identified legal, institutional, social, economic, and technical aspects to formalize the process of adopting VGI in transformative resilience initiatives.
... Haworth [37] conducted three studies on social media application in community bushfire (wildfire) risk reduction in Australia. His research indicates that the social aspects of user-generated data must be emphasized and knowledge formation and dissemination through citizen science and mapping endeavors be prioritized. ...
Article
Natural disasters may cause a substantial but spatially uneven increase in online activity among users in disaster zones seeking food, shelter, and medical assistance through social media. However, the presence of a digital divide affects social media participation among users. Therefore, the social and spatiotemporal inequality in the usage of social media data should be fully considered before such data can be leveraged to predict damage, investigate impacted populations, and prioritize activities during disaster management. Using Hurricane Irma as the case study, this research integrates Twitter data from September 2017 with other public data sets to examine spatial variation in social media activity during disasters. To investigate the social and spatiotemporal inequality in the usage of social media and examine the association between social media activity and flood rate at census tracts level, Multiscale geographically weighted regression was conducted. Our results show counties should not be seen homogeneous during disasters, specifically when using social media as a platform to disseminate information or direct help to affected people. It is clear from this work that in the Tampa Bay area, coastal, affluent communities have considerable representation on social media while poorer, inland areas are absent. It is important to note the limitations of online social media and microblogs in terms of access. Social media use varies across demographics and geographic location. Disaster management plans must consider the specific demographic, physical, and socioeconomic characteristics of each area before taking advantage of social media.
... In recent years, data mining using data extracted from Weibo has been an interesting research topic, since short blogs contain minimal information and can cover both large and sparse areas [12][13][14]. Many studies on social media data collection, extraction, and analysis have been conducted to meet the requirements of natural disaster management, including earthquakes, floods, and typhoons [8][9][10][15][16][17]. On the Internet, earthquake disaster information is complex, randomly expressed, quickly disseminated, and spread by diverse carriers [18]. ...
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Social media data are constantly updated, numerous, and characteristically prominent. To quickly extract the needed information from the data to address earthquake emergencies, a topic-words detection model of earthquake emergency microblog messages is studied. First, a case analysis method is used to analyze microblog information after earthquake events. An earthquake emergency information classification hierarchy is constructed based on public demand. Then, subject sets of different granularities of earthquake emergency information classification are generated through the classification hierarchy. A detection model of new topic-words is studied to improve and perfect the sets of topic-words. Furthermore, the validity, timeliness, and completeness of the topic-words detection model are verified using 2201 messages obtained after the 2014 Ludian earthquake. The results show that the information acquisition time of the model is short. The validity of the whole set is 96.96%, and the average and maximum validity of single words are 78% and 100%, respectively. In the Ludian and Jiuzhaigou earthquake cases, new topic-words added to different earthquakes only reach single digits in validity. Therefore, the experiments show that the proposed model can quickly obtain effective and pertinent information after an earthquake, and the complete performance of the earthquake emergency information classification hierarchy can meet the needs of other earthquake emergencies.
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In this chapter, we introduce early warning systems (EWS) in the context of disaster risk reduction, including the main components of an EWS, the roles of the main actors and the need for robust evaluation. Management of disaster risks requires that the nature and distribution of risk are understood, including the hazards, and the exposure, vulnerability and capacity of communities at risk. A variety of policy options can be used to reduce and manage risks, and we emphasise the contribution of early warnings, presenting an eight-component framework of people-centred early warning systems which highlights the importance of an integrated and all-society approach. We identify the need for decisions to be evidence-based, for performance monitoring and for dealing with errors and false information. We conclude by identifying gaps in current early warning systems, including in the social components of warning systems and in dealing with multi-hazards, and obstacles to progress, including issues in funding, data availability, and stakeholder engagement.
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In this chapter, we explore the challenges of achieving a level of awareness of disaster risk, by each person or organisation receiving a warning, which allows them to take actions to reduce potential impacts while being consistent with the warning producer’s capabilities and cost-effectiveness considerations. Firstly we show how people respond to warnings and how the nature and delivery of the warning affects their response. We look at the aims of the person providing the warning, the constraints within which they must act and the judgement process behind the issue of a warning. Then we address the delivery of the warning, noting that warning messages need to be tailored to different groups of receivers, and see how a partnership between warner and warned can produce a more effective result. We include illustrative examples of co-design of warning systems in Argentina and Nepal, experience in communicating uncertainty in Germany and the Weather-Ready Nation initiative in the USA. We conclude with a summary of aspects of the warning that need to be considered between warner and decision-maker when designing or upgrading a warning system.
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The geographic information system that was designed was a geographic information system as a tool for the distribution process of earthquake and tsunami disasters in Padang City. This design is based on the problems that occur on the process of distributing the disaster relief such as obstruction of the distribution process of disaster relief due to abnormal road conditions, lack of information about the data of disaster relief needs at the evacuation posts so that the disaster relief provided does not match with the disaster relief needed on the evacuation post. Based on these problems, the system designed aims to provide information on optimal disaster relief distribution routes, as well as providing information about the disaster relief needs data so that the process of exchanging information about disaster relief needs data can be done more effectively. The determination of the disaster relief distribution network is using the Dijkstra Algorithm. That the shortest distribution path is obtained using the Dijkstra Algorithm with assuming that the path is traversed only to the main lane and the bridge that can be traversed is only the bridge in the Tsunami green zone. The system design is done using the waterfall method. The results obtained are that the system has four main functions. The first is to provide the optimal distribution routes, providing information about the shelter location data, providing information about disaster relief needs data, and providing information about disaster relief needs stock data. The distribution channel in the system consists of 5 safe routes to pass with the starting point is the Management Operation Center of Regional Disaster Management Authority. This research was conducted to simplify the process of distributing disaster relief because at this time officers who carry out the evacuation process are still doing data recap manually.
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The increased ease for individuals to create, share and map geographic information combined with the need for timely, relevant and diverse information has resulted in a new disaster management context. Volunteered geographic information (VGI), or geographic information voluntarily created by private citizens enabled through technologies like social media and web-based mapping, has changed the ways people create and use information for crisis events. Research has focussed on disaster response while largely ignoring prevention and preparedness. Preparing for disasters can reduce negative impacts on life and property, but despite strategies to educate communities, preparation remains low. This study assesses the application and value of VGI in bushfire risk reduction through a participatory mapping approach. It examines VGI as a social practice and not simply a data source by considering the user experience of contributing VGI and the potential for these activities to increase community connectedness for building disaster resilience. Participatory mapping workshops were held in bushfire-risk communities in Tasmania. Workshop activities included a paper-mapping exercise and web-based digital mapping. Survey results from 31 participants at three workshops indicated the process of mapping and contributing local information for bushfire preparation with other community members can contribute to increased social connectedness, understanding of local bushfire risk, and engagement in risk reduction. Local knowledge exchange was seen as valuable, but the social dimension appeared even more engaging than the specific information shared. Participants reported collaborative maps as effective for collating and sharing community bushfire information with a preference for digital mapping. Some limitations of online sharing of information were also reported by participants, however, including potential issues of privacy, data quality and source trustworthiness. Further work is needed to extrapolate findings from the study sample to the broader population.
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The emergence of Web 2.0, open source software tools, and geosocial networks, along with associated mobile devices and available government data, is widely considered to have altered the nature and processes of place-based digital participation. Considerable theorizing has been dedicated to the geographic version of Web 2.0, the geospatial Web (Geoweb). To assess the theories, we draw on four years of empirical work across Canada that considers the nature of public participation on the Geoweb. We are driven by the question of how easy or difficult it is to ?do? Geoweb-enabled participation, particularly participation as envisioned by researchers such as Arnstein and planning practitioners. We consider how the Geoweb could transform methods by which citizens and nonprofit organizations communicate with the state on environmental issues that affect their lives. We conduct a meta-analysis of twelve research cases and derive new findings that reach across the cases on how the Geoweb obliges us to redefine and unitize participation. This redefinition reifies existing digital inequalities, blurs distinctions between experts and nonexperts, heterogenizes the state as an actor in the participation process, reassigns participation activities in a participation hierarchy, and distances participation from channels of influence.
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