Internet: Knowledge and Community

at The Evergreen State College

Can User Generated Content provide valuable real time or near real time data to a community?

From Internet: Knowledge and Community

Jump to: navigation, search
lighthouse example

MetaResponse on Real Time Community


Community Inquiry

We would like to explore the types of User Generated Content that apply to or serve various types of communities. Any real-time user generated data that can possibly be used to save lives, prevent accidents, or update critical information requirements of various types of communities seems like an straightforward application of this. Additionally how would a community set standards for the information it receives when both accuracy and timeliness are critical?


There are many examples of information standards [Seattle Community Network Policies] that can shape user generated content into usable formats for a community. An example would be online forms which you fill out and submit to various government agencies. Communities can easily establish information standards through training of the information recievers. 911 Operators are an example of real time data gathering during crisis situations. The operators have been trained to extract critical componets of information from the caller like, location or weapons involved etc. Communities can use available Information Standards like those found at the [Harvard University Library ] or the Wikipedia's [Minimum_Information_Standards]as well as training thier information recievers on standards and by designing an easy to use format for reporting data.

Benefits to Community

I have found a great deal of useful user generated content online through the use of both publicly available search engines as well as professional list serves and discussion forums. I recently experienced a technical problem at work and was able to find several possible solutions by simply making an inquiry on a professional discussion forum. Within minutes I found the answer I needed. Without the availability of easy access to a community of users it would be unlikely I could have found a known associate who could provide a solution to my problem. This is just one of many instances where user generated content has provided both technically sound information and saved me a great deal of time and resources.

This type of successful use of readily available knowledge has encouraged me to greater participation in sharing of information with others in my professional community and greatly expands the collective knowledge everyone involved. That said, the use of information so readily available requires that the individual user be cautious about where the information came from and how accurate the information is. Professional communities can regulate who and what is posted fairly easily because they are exclusive communities.

Drawbacks to Community

not all types of communities can benefit from actual Real Time data and could prove to be counter productive in some instances. Additionally I'm not convinced that User Generated Content will prove to be accurate enough to be of use even if can be generated in Real or Near Real Time.

It seems like User Generated Content in GIS mapping has found some uses for communities, such as the clean-up from the snow storms in D.C. a few years ago, where traditional snow plows weren't available so communities posted blocked roads that needed digging out and people responded by showing up and working together to fix roadways.

A problem I could see with this is the cost of access to the internet and many technologies can exclude communities based on resources, income, etc? Are their are projects that use User Generated Content in a way that is not exclusive to access to expensive technologies and that produce results that are still of value to communities? What kinds of projects would allow communities lacking the resources to leverage the benefits of the internet?

Agreement with the initial assessment that not all communities can benefit equally from user generated content. It seems that our ability to monitor real time user generated input regarding critical infrastructure is very limited and without methods in place to ensure accuracy the use of information from unknown and uncontrolled sources is not realistic in most cases. The example mentioned above by Charles where closed roads were posted and the community responded by working together to overcome the adverse conditions is a great example of how a communities' infrastructure can be improved through the use of user generated information. But this is an example where there was an ability to check the accuracy of the information simply be responding to the location and helping to clear the blocked roads. In cases such as this use of real time user generated information is wonderful. But where there is greater risk and lesser verification, I feel it is is questionable how much real time user generated information can be relied upon.

Since realtime information is a resource that is available to communities, it seems like any way to help those communities sort, parse, and share that information among its members would help build community capacity. It's just a question of how...

Examples of Real Time Data Use by a Community

  • Another interesting user reported use of GIS is with community mapping of point source pollution, where a traditional study could never have the resources to located every laundry cleaners, truck refueling station, etc., but the combined use of people submitting their daily experiences with pollution in their communities was much more thorough, like in this study in West Oakland.
  • The internet can provide a community with real time or near real time data to a community. An example is that I check AccuWeather on the internet to check the real time forecast in my area. I also go to various news websites to check updates to local news, and I also access the Dept. of Transportation website if I am going to travel up to Seattle for the latest traffic conditions. - Jerome Wilen
  • It seems like User Generated Content in GIS mapping has found some uses for communities, such as the clean-up from the snow storms in D.C. a few years ago, where traditional snow plows weren't available so communities posted blocked roads that needed digging out and people responded by showing up and working together to fix roadways.


  • An example of the type of information we are looking for can be found at [1]. Real Time or Near Real Time data developed through government or commercial interests may or may not be User Generated Content. The links below are broken down into two categories to ensure we capture data into by catagory. Data and information that would be usefull to smaller muncipalties or communities with limited resources in areas of Emergency Services, Weather, Disaster Response and Management, Traffic etc. To get an actual database of links and information together that is usefull we will need to consider both Traditional and Non Traditional information sources.

Non Traditional/Private Links

Government/Commercial Links

Back to Main Page