Saturday, 28 August 2010

5 Ws for citizens-as-sensors

Des Kilfoil at the CBC in Calgary, Canada introduced me 20-odd years ago to the 5Ws, the basic tenets of any investigative reporting, from journalists to police, from Wikipedia:
  • Who? Who was involved?
  • What? What happened (what's the story)?
  • Where? Where did it take place?
  • When? When did it take place?
  • Why? Why did it happen?
  • How? How did it happen?

That year I spent a summer in Arctic Canada as part of compiling Arctic Islands geology at the Geological Survey of Canada. As geologists on the ground, we were sensors sparsely deployed in the Arctic vastness - that was better than no data at all, isn't it? We reported:
  • weather conditions at 7AM and 7PM (also for safety never more than 12 hours out of touch)
  • sitings of a type of caterpillar apparently discovered there that year (we found many)
  • any evidence of shipwreck or abandoned camps, as the lost Franklin expedition was still being investigated (all we found was a downed DC-3)
  • any new geographic feature not appearing on the topographic maps (localities accepted by the National Topographic Survey were given names from a list of deceased soldiers)
    Juvenile polar bear skull (1.5-2" canines mounted as pendants), found bleached near Viks Fjord, NW Devon Island (click on image to go to Yahoo!Flickr)

Back to the future, Gary Gale's 3Ws (where? when? what?) lead to the w3gconf one month from today in Stratford-on-Avon. In contrast to the AGI Geocommunity same week and place, this is an unconference: a few lead speakers seed the event, participants post presentations using a sticky on a grid board, and that morphs into a user-driven schedule. This follows on the heels of other such unconferences as WhereCamps incl. WhereCampEU.
I also followed the Icelandic volcanic ash-cloud dispersal using publicly available information on a freemium web service Not only did I post it here and on Slideshare, I also joined CAKE a web community of concerned citizens on environmental change - they encourage posting projects, and mine awaits publication here - but rather than holding it thru refereeing, it is posted for all to preview (free login required).

All are good examples of citizen-as-sensor Michael Goodchild coined in 2007. The web literature is full of examples of volunteered geographic information - its Wikipedia entry-in-progress attests to the novelty of the word - but Ushahidi may be one of the more notable ones. Of particular interest is its recent moved from a original desktop to CrowdMap in the cloud.

Mostly to see if it's as easy as purported but also for fun, I created a few webmaps using free tools and datasets I gleaned over time, posted on my old website here - Adam DuVanders MapScripting blog and book are the best resource if you want to try your hand at it too - here's a whimsy showing children, future citizens-as-sensors, that maps can be interactive and fun...

click on map to go to website