Beyond the Geotag: Situating 'Big Data' and Leveraging the Potential of the Geoweb
Crampton, J. W., M. Graham, A. Poorthuis, T. Shelton, M. Stephens, M. W. Wilson, and M. Zook. 2013. Beyond the Geotag: Situating 'big data' and leveraging the potential of the geoweb. Cartography and Geographic Information Science. 40(2): 130-139.
27 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2013 Last revised: 21 Jul 2014
Date Written: April 19, 2013
This paper presents an overview and initial results of geoweb analysis performed by our group as the foundation for a continued discussion of the potential impacts of "big" geodata for the practice of critical human geography. While Haklay’s (2012a) observation that social media content is generated by a tiny fraction of participants ("outliers") is correct, we explore the methods and limits of going beyond geotagged datasets to overcome these issues. The results suggest a cautious approach towards the use of big geodata that is as mindful of its shortcomings as its potential.
The principal case study focuses on the widely reported riots following the University of Kentucky men's basketball team’s 2012 championship, and its manifestation within the geoweb. Drawing upon a Twitter database we have been developing — which among other things has collected all geo-tagged tweets (about 5 million a day) since December 2011 — we analyze the geography of tweets that used a specific hashtag (#LexingtonPoliceScanner). The hashtag refers to the online feed of the Lexington Police Department (LPD) and by itself sheds light on spatially-determinable events as news of them diffuses over time and space.
We propose five extensions to the typical practice of mapping georeferenced data that we call going beyond the geotag: (1) examining social media that is not explicitly geographic; (2) spatialities beyond the "here and now"; (3) going beyond the proximate; (4) going beyond the human to data produced by bots and automated systems and (5) leveraging tweets against ancillary data (such as news reports and census data). These extensions create an "information-amplifier" effect that — at least partially — overcomes the partiality of geoweb social media.
We discuss our effort to develop a geoweb big data analytic engine which provides basic geovisualization functionality for a range of geo-tagged big data, enabling the combination of more conventional, “top-down” datasets or qualitative methods with user-generated geo-data.
Keywords: geoweb, #LexingtonPoliceScanner, big data, Twitter, geotag
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