Lab 03. GoogleMap of Crime Around UCLA, 2010

Description of Map:

This map is a compilation of data from preventative “Crime Alert Bulletins” published by the UCLA PD, showing the location of crimes around UCLA/Westwood Village, from 1/1/2010 to 10/17/2010.

Whenever a crime is committed and the police believe there is a possibility of recurrence, they post a synopsis of the crime, suspect description etc. on the UCPD website. I have gone through the bulletins from January 1, 2010 to the present and geocoded them. Note that some of the police bulletins are not specific about location of the crime, hence some of the place markers can be considered approximations.

Purple icons signify robberies. Yellow icons signify crimes of a sexual nature. Green icons are miscellaneous.

(source: http://map.ais.ucla.edu/portal/site/UCLA/menuitem.789d0eb6c76e7ef0d66b02ddf848344a/?vgnextoid=e95bad9386bab010VgnVCM100000db6643a4RCRD)

Critique of Neography:

Neogeography is a term used to describe user-generated maps. Coined after the advent of web 2.0, neogeography has grown and blossomed in recent years. Maps like John’s Backpacking Trip Through India, or Best Running Trails in Los Angeles now pepper the blogosphere, making valuable (and invaluable) and previously inaccessible geo-information (and misinformation) available to the public. Programs with application programming interfaces like Google Maps make it possible for anyone to publish anything.

In terms of free thought and dissemination of information, web 2.0 in my opinion is comparable to the invention of the printing press, the Renaissance, and the preamble to the Declaration of Independence all bundled up into a little ball of free-thinking delectability. Anyone, and I mean anyone wealthy enough to afford an hour at an internet cafe living in a nation without internet censorship can blog, twit, facebook, and otherwise ithink. Neogeography is simply a facet to this explosion of knowledge and creativity.

User-generated content is unique in that there are no boundaries. The formatting guidelines to which government maps are restricted, or the content specifications that traditional maps are held to don’t have to play a role in u-gen maps. Users can generate unique and some may say trivial subject matter, such as McRib sightings in the lower 48; or can add to something as scathing as a worst landlords watchlist; or see how much energy their roof could generate if it were covered in solar panels. The only limit is the bandwidth of the user’s imagination. In such an environment, creativity is fostered, and innovations become inevitable. This blank slate in my opinion is the foremost strength of user-generated content.

However, with a lack of boundaries and rules comes the inevitable negative. Users can post anything and aren’t held accountable for the content they generate; they are operating in an unregulated environment. This can lead to lapses in accuracy or ethics on the user’s part. Due to this possibility of inaccuracy, user-generated maps must be viewed through the lens of a skeptic. Don’t think that I believe all u-gen maps shouldn’t be trusted, just those where data sources and/or methodology are not transparent. The idea is to leave as little room for skepticism as possible. By citing sources and describing the methods used to generate the map, users can achieve credibility.

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