Monday 3 March 2014

Collecting spatial information using Twitter

How do you engage people to communicate important information about their environment?
Most of the collection-type methods developed for crowdsourcing information on the field such as epicollect, require the installation of a specific app, or logging-in to a specific account and some training by the users. Logging-in into specific systems make apps temporary, only used for the specific time that they are required. However if we want to engage a continuous dialogue, we should think about applications that are constantly accessible by the user.

As such, twitter, has become very popular over the years and we found that it was already used by some of the mappers. Social Networks have already been used by official parties to explore the possibilities of communication with the public. However, up to this point, there was no customized real-time collection system.

The BigDataToolKit developed by Steven Gray in CASA UCL was used to collect real-time the different twits that related with specific spatial problems. The system is not User ID dependent which makes it ideal for the purposes of emergency reporting by participants using their own systems. The collector allows storing of critical information provided by the user with also the ability of including media such as photos. In the field work of Barrios Altos, the system was extremely useful for submitting uncategorized information such as cellphone antennas but also reporting illegal storage spaces. Moreover, a very important use of twitter in this project, is the use of its real-time nature for emergency reporting such as the cases of evictions in Barrios Altos. Results shown above!
If you want to be among the first to collect data from your social network, you can try it here.