Date of Award

December 2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Mark Monmonier

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Neogeography and Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) are two terms that have emerged recently to describe the practice of geography by those not formally trained in it as a discipline and spatial data provided by individuals through social media and other Web-based tools. Both neogeography and VGI can be directly linked to the growth of various online mapping websites and applications that allow for the creation of electronic maps that are interactive, adaptable, and easily shared via the Internet and Web. As recent phenomena, the practice of neogeography and VGI is not well understood, nor are the links these new fields have to previously established knowledge on Geographic Information Systems and its associated practices.

This thesis attempts to fill this knowledge gap through a participatory study of neogeographic practice. Using a participatory workshop format, I observed and documented representatives of community-based organizations in Syracuse, NY as they encountered online mapping tools for the first time. I followed up with two of those organizations in longer case studies to better understand how organizations with no obvious geographic focus come to see geography as a way of communicating complex ideas about space. This study revealed that while the technical complexity of the online mapping software continues to prove to be a hindrance to its use, there remains space for professional geographers to interact with laypeople who make maps. Furthermore, such engagement is necessary to begin to understand the issues involved with location-based information and privacy, access to data, and ability to use and communicate geographic concepts and knowledge.


Open Access