No one knows your world better than you do.
Academics have long been trying to capture the personal experience of communities in their research, using techniques like interviews, journals and participant observation to try to glean an insight into what life is like in certain spaces. But an outside observer will never create an adequate proxy (no pun intended) for how anyone else experiences the world. A person’s lived experience is wholly and completely their own, and no effort from an outsider can ever fully understand how it feels to experience the world from another’s point of view.
Although your worldview is an intimate, personal experience, there can be value that comes from sharing it with others. When this sort of personal data comes with any sort of spatial component, the cleanest, most intuitive way to disseminate that data is by mapping it. This is how Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) is shared. VGI, as defined by USGS, is “geospatial content generated by non-professionals using mapping systems available on the Internet”.
VGI is crucial to the future of geography, as it introduces the previously inaccessible field of cartography to the average user.
Witnessing and generating VGI brings together communities all over the globe. Whether this means creating tailored restaurant recommendations, collaborating with neighbors to take notes on which neighborhood parks need improvements, or participating in citizen science initiatives to map natural disasters, VGI creates community. It facilitates geography without geographers. The future of geography is breaking down barriers to access that have been built for so many years.
Technological developments in recent years have made this bridge possible: people no longer need an advanced degree to create and share mapped content, they just need access to the internet. Proxi further democratizes Volunteered Geographic Information. By allowing the creation of consumer generated maps that can be made easily in minutes, anyone can share VGI. The possibilities using Proxi are endless. And as the field continues to expand, and more people start mapping, VGI will continue to evolve.
People might think that cartographers have already mapped the globe. But just because we have increased the accuracy of terrain maps, doesn’t mean we know all there is to know about our geographies. Everyday geography expands; neighborhoods change, events are held, businesses open and close. All of these changes exist on the smallest scales, but that doesn’t make them any less important. In fact, they’re arguably more important, because they teach us so much about how individuals experience the world. And professional cartographers can’t keep up. So the responsibility falls to VGI. The world is out there, waiting to be mapped.
A map of trick-or-treating locations, made using VGI on Proxi
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