Presented at Carto2013 on June 14, 2013.
Place can be defined as the meanings that are created at the confluence of location and activity (Relph, 1976). The places that comprise an urban environment are increasingly networked through the ubiquitous disbursement of connected, hand-held, location-aware mobile devices (Castells, 2004). This, coupled with the evolution of the GeoWeb supporting volunteered geographic information (VGI), is defining a key method of citizen engagement with spatial data and information. Specifically, citizens are able to communicate place-based information through these technologies. These emerging phenomena give rise to some pertinent questions: (1) To what extent are GPS systems able to capture users' understanding of location, and; (2) How do people contribute spatial information to the GeoWeb?
Using a case study method that centered on Edmonton’s river valley trail network, 17 informants were interviewed regarding their use of GPS devices in the capture and communication of spatial information, and their corresponding knowledge of place. Our findings indicate that people possess and are able to articulate place knowledge that is deep and personally meaningful, especially in regards to parts of the river valley they use and enjoy most often. However, location-aware mobile devices do not currently provide the tools necessary to communicate users' deep understanding. We conclude that current web based maps that support VGI only allow for a small portion of knowledge to be uploaded. This knowledge is restricted to the structure or form of a place, rather than its meanings or context.