Geowiki Pictures

Global mapping tools, like Google Earth or Google Maps, are not just entirely determined by satellite imagery; citizen scientists and casual photographers alike have a role to play in verifying the land cover maps that are projected by mapping services. Geo-Wiki is an app developed in 2009 by Steffen Fritz, working with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), where users take and upload pictures of areas where land cover isn’t entirely certain. The pictures taken in the app are automatically geo-referenced and tagged with information, such as compass directions and the angle of tilt; from there, pictures are uploaded to the Geo-Wiki database, which is then shared with map generators who refine their land cover maps with information submitted by the public to be more accurate. Global land cover maps inform decisions about deforestation and biodiversity strategies, and the information submitted by Geo-Wiki ideally leads to more accurate maps and, by proxy, better decision making. There are a couple of elusive aspects of Geo-Wiki, particularly how often and where their app has been used and how they give or possibly sell their database information to private firms or nonprofits in need of information. The fact that this information isn’t readily available on their website raises some flags about how privacy is protected and information is shared on this application. 

Geo-Wiki Project.” Scientific American. 


Citizen Science, Data, Ecological Modelling, Monitoring, Regulation, Visual Technologies