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Is there a “Neogeneralisation”?

12. October 2012

The progression of the internet as well as the fast technological developments, since the late 1990s, enabled internet users to be more than passive consumers. Without having any technological background of web development, they can be now also active producers of the contents that are available in the internet. Such a user is called “prosumer” (Toffler). This process, very often described as the “democratisation” of the internet, lead to the mainly accepted term “Web 2.0”, introduced by Tim O’Reilly.People are now able to share all kinds of information with each other or form communities to work cooperatively on projects. Nowadays these significant shifts influence all facets of the modern digital life.

In consequence, many scientific authors observed how these trends also influence their special scientific field and tried to describe them by using the extension “2.0” as a metaphor. This happened also in scientific cartography. In result we can describe the modern cartographical trends as “GeoWeb 2.0” (Maquire) which produces “Maps 2.0” (Crampton) by applying “Web Mapping 2.0” (Haklay et al). But these terms do not describe the digital reality very well, meaning how cartography is applied in the “Web 2.0”. It is more a description of the modern technologies which push active participation of users. This fact is already indicated by the nomenclature “2.0”, which basically has its origin in software development, where the change of the version notation (e.g.: from 1.5.6 to 2.0) indicates drastic changes in the code.

Besides the technological proceedings there is also a social effect noticeable caused by these “Web 2.0” improvements. They enable the internet user – now called “prosumers” – to collaborate with each other and generate communities that are associated by common interests or aims. Therefore these communities collect and share each kind of information which are denominated as “user generated content” recapitulatory while the associated activity is called “crowd sourcing”. This collaboratively generated content is called “volunteered geographical information” (Goodchild) or “user generated geo massdata” (translated from Zipf) when it has a spatial reference. When users are collaborative making map they are conducting “user generated cartography“(Auer) which produces “user generated maps” (Hoffmann). Accordingly, it is obviously that the term “user generated” is used to indicate that people are working on things where they have no qualification for. That means when a user has no geographical education and is collecting spatial data (e.g.: for OpenStreetMap) he/she is generating user generated content. That is no strict definition but this is the basic statement of the term “user generated”.

To combine these basic characteristics of non-experts which crowdsource geodata by applying “Web2.0” technologies, some authors used the prefix “neo”, which is Grecian for “new”. Especially “Neogeography” is nowadays a well established, widespread and often cited term (Turner) As the Grecian origin indicates, it simply understood as a “new geography” that cannot be described by the classical definitions of scientific and commercial geography. It is a collective term for all geographical prosumer driven activities and technologies that arise from the modern technologies of the “Web 2.0”.

Viewing the cartographic activities it leads to the term “Neocartography” (ICA-Commision). This term can be seen as a branch of “Neogeography” and describes on the one hand the appliance of user generated geodata, the so called “volunteered geographical information” on map making, which is also described as “Web Mapping 2.0” producing “Maps 2.0”. On the other hand it also indicates the collaborative, community driven map production using the technologies of “Web 2.0”, what is also described as “user generated cartography”.

So if there is a “Neogeneralisation” it would be a branch of “Neocartography”. Based on the facts described above it has to produce “Generalisation 2.0” and it has to be applied by the prosumers as “user generated generalisation“. “Generalisation 2.0” means that there are new trends in the development and appliance of generalisation to maps. The first vague approaches on that are already initiated by the technology of web generalisation services (WebGen-WPS) but is not commonly applied. Generalisation is here no longer understood as a local processing, rather than giving the possibility to apply generalisation functionalities on external sources. That also enables users to collaboratively develop algorithm and share them with each other. Additionally it also enables a “user generated generalisation”, meaning the collaborative appliance of generalisation to the map making process. This is more a vision on how the process of making community driven maps outputs could be optimised.

So I have pointed out the basic elements that define what “Neogeneralisation” would be. Hence it seems to exist theoretically, but it is not applied so far. In future posts I will go more into detail for advantages and disadvantages of applied neogeneralisation and what is necessary to implement it.

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