September 18, 2017

The OpenStreetMap folksonomy and its evolution

OpenStreetMap Volunteered Geographic Information folksonomy

Novel forms of geographical data collections have emerged in the last years, among them Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI). Efforts to collaboratively create and maintain data has led to diverse and heterogeneous datasets, whose content can only be understood by the complex interactions that generated the data. Most important, the common scheme of data structures is understood in very diverse ways. Among the factors that influence the understanding of such common schemes are the cultural background, the context in which the environment is mapped, the purpose and the motivation behind the contribution, etc. Accordingly, fixed ontologies and taxonomies have turned into folksonomies, which are created by their use. A thorough understanding of folksonomies has, however, not been developed in literature, and the interpretation of VGI stays often unclear. In the article ‘The OpenStreetMap folksonomy and its evolution’, we examine at the example of OpenStreetMap how well the documentation of the folksonomy reflects the actual use of the folksonomy in the data, and how the folksonomy has evolved in the past. We even extrapolate and predict the future development of the folksonomy. The results render a more detailed and more extensive examination of the folksonomy possible, because they clarify in how far the examination of the documentation can replace the actual analysis of the much harder to grasp folksonomy.

Feel welcome to read our publication:

F-B Mocnik, A Zipf, M Raifer: The OpenStreetMap folksonomy and its evolution. Geospatial Information Science 20(3), 2017, 219–230 – doi: 10.1080/10095020.2017.1368193

ABSTRACT. The comprehension of folksonomies is of high importance when making sense of Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI), in particular in the case of OpenStreetMap (OSM). So far, only little research has been conducted to understand the role and the evolution of folksonomies in VGI and OSM, which is despite the fact that without a comprehension of the folksonomies the thematic dimension of data can hardly be used. This article examines the history of the OSM folksonomy, with the aim to predict its future evolution. In particular, we explore how the documentation of the OSM folksonomy relates to its actual use in the data, and we investigate the historical and future scope and granularity of the folksonomy. Finally, a visualization technique is proposed to examine the folksonomy in more detail.