A Socio-Technical Design Approach to Build Crowdsourced and Volunteered Geographic Information Systems. Leveraging the Crowds and Participatory Communities for Geoinformation Management
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PhD Dissertation. Technical University of Madrid - School Of Land Surveying, Geodesy And Mapping Engineering, Madrid, Spain, 167pp.
The overall purpose of this PhD Thesis is to offer a structured and innovative approach to understanding the methodological, goal-oriented production of Volunteered Geographic Information through information systems based on web-mediated crowdsourcing processes. This thesis introduces a set of concepts and principles to explain the deliberate production of Volunteered Geographic Information and to develop processes that lead to a more systematic and methodological information management. Theory, knowledge frameworks and design guidelines are needed to approach the production of Volunteered Geographic Information from a systems perspective, providing elements that will make it easier to understand and efficiently design the components, architecture and dynamics that are part of information systems that manage this type of information. Thus, the goal of this thesis is to develop a conceptual and methodological framework for the understanding, analysis and practical design of Volunteered Geographic Information Systems. This framework provides guidelines that are useful for different organizations (including self-organized citizens groups) willing to design this type of systems, helping them to identify the necessary requirements and characteristics to build the processes and functionalities to accomplish their objectives, engage volunteers and facilitate participation.
In general, this research work follows a holistic perspective to understand how these particular systems work as a whole. Linking to and informed by existing literature, applied knowledge and theory, an exploratory research on several Volunteered Geographic Information Systems is conducted. This research relies on purposeful sampling for the collection of qualitative data from examples and cases examined to identify and explain the characteristics, architecture, elements, their relationships and functions, of these kinds of systems. An inductive reasoning approach moving from aspects of specific instances into more generalized conclusions, is used to develop concepts, insights, themes and models as theoretical contributions to the understanding of these systems; as well as to discover and build guidelines, typologies, patterns and other tools as practical contributions to help in their design. Taking into account the interconnected set of socio-technical factors when analyzing the components, and complexity of Volunteered Geographic Information Systems, the research methodology follows three complementary research methods and approaches: 1) Systems Perspective and Systems Theory, which involves looking at the system as a whole and understanding the interconnectedness of its individual components, including the relationships and feedbacks among them. 2) Grounded Theory, which allows theories to be developed based on observations and empirical data by identifying categories or themes as patterns and typologies, which lead to the development of theory. 3) Case Study, where cases are used for the systematic data collection and to provide a structure for their analysis.
The major results of this thesis correspond to three peer-reviewed scientific research papers published in high quality journals. In conjunction, they present research on the development of a conceptual and methodological framework for the understanding, analysis, design and use of information systems for the creation and management of Volunteered Geographic Information. An overview of this framework referred as Volunteered Geographic Information Systems Analysis and Design Framework is presented in the discussion of this thesis, with its main findings and contributions to the body of knowledge in the fields of Volunteered Geographic Information, crowdsourcing, Citizen Science, spatial sciences and geography. This framework introduces: the development of new typologies such as a project goal typology, the participant types, the participation drivers, and a task typology; a framework for designing participation and engagement strategies in Volunteered Geographic Information, including an analysis of the core drivers of participation; and finally, the formal characterization of Volunteered Geographic Information Systems, including their general architecture and their technological functional components.
This comprehensive perspective of Volunteered Geographic Information Systems provides of a common language as a foundation for their analysis and design, to formulate and exchange design experiences and strategies, and to inform the development of new technology solutions. But also, it presents practical and managerial relevance in numerous disciplinary areas, especially those focused on citizen participation in land management and public policies.