SotM 2010 session: Who are the mappers and why do they map in OpenStreetMap?

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State Of The Map 2010 Session
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Nama Raj Budhathoki, Muki Haklay, Zorica Nedovic-Budic


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Maps are traditionally produced either by mapping agencies or commercial companies. Mapping agencies are often mandated by government directives to meet the needs for geographic data and maps in a society. Commercial companies follow market signals in order to maximize their business profit. Thus, geographic data and maps have historically remained within the purview of the top-down expert organizations. For long time, these expert organizations—which rely on professionally trained cartographers—enjoyed the economy of scale. It is partly because map-making required expensive equipments and specialized expertise in the past.

In recent years, citizen map-making has emerged as a new movement. With decreasing cost of computer and other devices, expanding access to communication infrastructure, and the development of web 2.0, citizens are now increasingly collaborating in map-making activities in the Internet. Only a few years ago, it was difficult to imagine that people would collaboratively produce online maps as detailed as in OSM. However, to date, little is known about who these people are and why they spend their time and effort in OSM. Many consider it as a puzzling phenomenon particularly because there are no obvious benefits for contributors than free riders.

In this presentation, we attempt to resolve this puzzle. We report the results of an OSM user survey conducted by the end of 2009. We find that majority of the contributors are educated and tech savvy males with some prior experience in geospatial technology. Our study suggests that those who are taking part in this open map-making are not laypeople as claimed in recent mainstream GIS literature. Interestingly, vast majority of the contributors believe that they can create more accurate and detailed maps than the expert organizations. We will present the diverse motivations that drive the contributors in this open map-mapping and will discuss how those motivations differ between serious and casual mappers.