Georeferenced data as native digital object?

Team Members

Jean-Christophe, Diana, Anat, Cameran

Research Question

Meta-research question:

  • Can we study online georeferenced data as native digital object?
  • The object of georeferenced data reminds us of various characteristics of digital object: debates about quality, accuracy, authority, messiness
  • Here are some claims of actors regarding the "messiness" of georeferenced data and the need in resolving dispute in representing place-names.
Claim 1: Yahoo! Geo Planet:

"Developers can geo-enable their applications by using GeoPlanet to traverse the global spatial hierarchy, identify the geography relevant to their users and their businesses, and in turn, unambiguously geotag, geotarget, and geolocate data across the Web."


Claim 2: Google Policy on Dispited Place Names " Under this policy, the English Google Earth client displays the primary, common, local name(s) given to a body of water by the sovereign nations that border it. If all bordering countries agree on the name, then the common single name is displayed (e.g. “Caribbean Sea” in English, “Mar Caribe” in Spanish, etc.). But if different countries dispute the proper name for a body of water, our policy is to display both names, with each label placed closer to the country or countries that use it. …For language clients other than English, we display only the preferred name in the relevant language. For example, the Japanese client of Google Earth shows “Sea of Japan” in Japanese (日本海), while the Korean version shows “East Sea” in Korean (동해). In these cases, we still include both labels in the click-box political annotation. We believe this solution makes our product more helpful to users in each language by presenting the name they expect to see, but without sidestepping the existence of a disputed alternative name. In that way, we provide more, rather than less, information while maintaining a good user interface and experience."

Source: "

Claim 3: Open Calais:

"Regarding lat/long, in general if Calais successfully disambiguates a geography there's a good chance it will assign lat/long values to it. However the data sources are sometimes incomplete and it's possible that lat/long information won't be available. We're constantly working on improving our data sources and hopefully this will be fixed in one of the next releases. That's the reason for missing the lat/long for Baghdad, even though the city is succesfully disambiguated when both the city and the country Iraq are mentioned in the text."


Hence this research question:
  • What are the mechanisms of translation that turn placenames into georeferenced data / can it organize territorial disputes?

Case Study

The historical naming of the Persian Gulf by western and Islamic cartographers dates to at least the 10th century. In the 1960s, the decline of Iran (and the idea of "Persia") in the Western imagination and the rise of Arab nationalism leads to some Arab states to refer to the gulf as the Arabian Gulf.

In 2010 the U.S. Navy instructed personnel to use Arabian Gulf instead of Persian Gulf, reigniting the controversy in the geoweb both via user contributed information and online mapping services.

Steps in Method

Methodology changes:
  • Scraped the query “persian gulf” + map and “arabian gulf” + map
  • Use the Open Calais Tool for the two scraped lists and output a table that relates and GeoData
  • Clean the data using google ref
  • Select the entire database and sort it by column (category : Place names).
  • Select and deleted all the other wich doesn´t have geodata references
Next steps:

  • Visualize the geo-referenced data returned from Open Calais using Gephi (nodes: URLs, connections: co-occurence of Connections established by co-occurence on the URL. Geo-spatialization Algorithm).
  • Compare the "plotted geography" of the "Arabian Gulf" space and the "Persian Gulf" Space.
  • Compare to the geolocalization of the sources using the Issue Geographer



Further Readings

Berg, L D. (2009). Critical toponymies: the contested politics of place naming.

Farman, J. (2010). Mapping the digital empire: Google Earth and the process of postmodern cartography. New media & society, 12(6), 869-.

Latour, B, & November. (2010). Entering a risky territory: space in the age of digital navigation. Environment and planning D, Society & space, 28(4), 581-.

Zook, M. (2011). Analyzing global cyberscapes: mapping geo-coded internet information. In Proceedings of the 2011 iConference on - iConference '11. (pp. 522-).ACM. This project is part of the DmiSummer2011Projects
Topic revision: r20 - 01 Jul 2011, CameranAshraf
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