Currently, I am preparing a OpenStreetMap (OSM) user survey. OSM is one of the fastest growing crowdsourced Internet projects. It provides a rich case to understand the science of user-generated content. The number of OSM users is approaching to 200,000 who are distributed around the world. My key interest is to understand why people spend their time and energy contributing knowledge online. Orthodox economists and organizational theorists find it puzzling to see an increasing number of people’ engagement in online knowledge contribution despite the absence of a direct monetary reward and direction from any body to contribute.
The phenomenon challenges the industrial information model, which considers users as mere recipients of information. It suggests that humans are willing to engage in the collaborative creation and sharing of knowledge under certain conditions. If we can understand those conditions correctly and design systems accordingly, it might lead us into a new era of information production and use, with significant implications on the relationships among government, business, and citizens.
I am launching the survey soon. I will come with new posts with key findings soon after I analyze data. I hope that my research will help to develop a deeper understanding of user-generated content (UGC) in general and volunteered geographic information (VGI) in particular.