[Editor's note: Good focus on vernacular geography, on how we name and describe space, with a particular focus on downtown city cores explored thru millions of photos on Flickr. "Importantly, it deals with regions which are typically not represented in formal administrative gazetteers and which are often considered to be vague." Never seen Flickr geography before? Check out Aaron's flickr shapetiles (map), shpfile browser, and geotagger world atlas.]
Republished from the Journal of Spatial Information Science.
By Livia Hollenstein and Ross Purves
Terms used to describe city centers, such as Downtown, are key concepts in everyday or vernacular language. Here, we explore such language by harvesting georeferenced and tagged metadata associated with 8 million Flickr images and thus consider how large numbers of people name city core areas. The nature of errors and imprecision in tagging and georeferencing are quantified, and automatically generated precision measures appear to mirror errors in the positioning of images. Users seek to ascribe appropriate semantics to images, though bulk-uploading and bulk-tagging may introduce bias. Between 0.5–2% of tags associated with georeferenced images analyzed describe city core areas generically, while 70% of all georeferenced images analyzed include specific place name tags, with place names at the granularity of city names being by far the most common. Using Flickr metadata, it is possible not only to describe the use of the term Downtown across the USA, but also to explore the borders of city center neighborhoods at the level of individual cities, whilst accounting for bias by the use of tag profiles.