University of Tasmania
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Crowdsourcing environmental sustainability : where 2.0 Australia? : Implications of GeoWeb 2.0 for broad-based community participation in environmental information sharing

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posted on 2023-05-27, 11:19 authored by Clark, AJ
This thesis investigates the potential of GeoWeb 2.0, the interactive geospatial capabilities of the internet, to facilitate broad-based community participation in environmental information sharing and environmental management. Environmental sustainability is a challenge confronting the whole of humanity. Creation and sharing of information is foundational in efforts to address environmental sustainability. GeoWeb 2.0 and related practices, such as volunteering geographic information and Neogeography, have been heralded as a revolution in information sharing, with potentially transformational and disruptive consequences. GeoWeb 2.0 is already being harnessed for information sharing to support environmental sustainability efforts. However, this capacity brings both opportunities and risks hence applications of GeoWeb 2.0 deserve close examination. Action Research was used to engage with research participants, as individuals and in small groups in the researcher's local community and within institutions operating at larger scales, in both online and offline contexts. Participant Action Research was first used to engage with individuals on and offline to share information about the state of their environment. Action Research and Participant Observation were used to engage with other existing initiatives and organisations to investigate their use of GeoWeb 2.0. I participated directly in the study, including an auto-ethnographical study of my own practice. Other evidence was gathered from the literature, web resources and applications. A broad range of criteria for quality were established and critical reflexivity employed throughout the research. A narrative writing style was used to make explicit the recursive development, and the role of time and place, in construction of the research. Issues with traditional environmental information sharing that can be addressed through GeoWeb 2.0 were identified through a discussion of environmental sustainability, its information requirements, issues with State of the Environment reporting, and GeoWeb 2.0 capabilities. GeoWeb 2.0 can lower barriers to community sharing of environmental information, and has potential for addressing the issues identified for environmental information sharing. This research indicated, however, that the potential may be difficult to achieve as many barriers to participation exist and are emerging, and that broad-based sharing was not identified, demonstrated or considered likely through GeoWeb 2.0 alone. While it is possible that GeoWeb 2.0 can contribute to the representation of pluralistic conceptualisations of environmental sustainability that are nuanced to particular contexts, a definitive evaluation is confounded by the potential for the emergence of unintended consequences from complex interactions at broader scales. This research contributes to a more complex and nuanced understanding of GeoWeb 2.0's role in supporting community sharing of information that promotes environmental sustainability. It critiques dominant views espousing simplistic and deterministic views of the outcomes for GeoWeb 2.0, in particular that openness is a major characteristic. In some instances, openness is an objective and features that contribute to this can be identified, but it is a concept that is conditional on the local context. Other quality criteria should be used to evaluate any approach that considers using GeoWeb 2.0 including inclusive, representative, accessible, transparent, free, equitable, balanced (ing), collaborative, adaptable and reusable. An insight arising from the research is that Action Research methods can contribute to the development of GeoWeb 2.0 applications that share environmental information in support of sustainability. This is because its recursive nature is responsive to the complexity of the evolving context, and critical reflexivity allows for continual assessment of ethical concerns arising from emergent outcomes. Practically, the research reviews and demonstrates how GeoWeb 2.0 can be used by individuals and collectives to discover and share relevant information, and how this can affect real changes in environmental conditions.


Publication status

  • Unpublished

Rights statement

Copyright 2017 the author The following publication was produced as part of this thesis: Clark, A., 2014. Where 2.0 Australia's environment? Crowdsourcing, volunteered geographic information, and citizens acting as sensors for environmental sustainability, ISPRS international journal of geo-information, 3(3), 1058-1076. Copyright 2014 by the author. Located in chapters 2 and 9. The article was published using a Creative Commons Attribution3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) license

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