Participatory methods: PGIS – Participatory GIS

Participatory GIS is the broadest category, which the author analyzes. One can find here methods called participatory GIS, online mapping (Bugs, Granell, Fonts, Huerta, & Painho, 2010; Kyem & Saku, 2009; Peng, 2001), crowdsourcing (Lundin, Kovacic, & Poggiali, 2012), mobile GIS, Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) (Brown, Kelly, & Whitall, 2013; Goodchild, 2007; Tulloch, 2008), neocartography(Cartwright, 2012) and others.

Often this method is associated with PPGIS (Public Participation GIS), but by Forrester and Cinderby (2012) the main difference between PGIS and PPGIS is that PGIS is used to collect and display community owned (collected) information, on the other side PPGIS works with existing public data and visualising them according  the needs of the community.

Difficulty: Challenging

Group size: Depending on the specific project.

Time required: Depending on the specific project.

Links to other methods: This is mostly independent method. It may be preceded by simpler methods.

The aim of this method is to fully expore the potential of geographic information systems (GIS) for the needs of the group/community. In general, we can conclude that these methods are technically demanding, but at the same time they provide the user with a high degree of flexibility.

History and Present

Already in 1996, there was organised a workshop on Public Participation in GIS (PPGIS) in the State of Maine (USA) and was soon followed by other activities that sought to transfer attention from theoretical issues to practical use of GIS as a tool for democratization and increase participation in public life and the decision-making process. Since then, the Participatory Approaches in GIS slowly developed and today it is already an established method.

The main advantages and also disadvantages include the need for software – whether it is open-source, such as QGIS, or proprietary software of ArcGIS type. The same dilemma is also in the form of a data source, such as base maps. Communities can use open data (OpenStreetMap) or commercial data (Google Maps, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, Esri Maps, etc.).

The usability of the platform OpenStreetMap for community mapping projects is often debatable, mainly because of the unequal coverage and quality of the included maps. Haklay (2010) argues that there are places in OpenStreetMap, which “simply nobody wants to map”. On the other hand Pánek (2012) sees strengths in the use of OpenStreetMap mapping for community projects, as an opposite to the Google Map Maker. Among the strengths author ranks conditions for creation, use and reproduction of data, which are published under the Open Database License (ODbL), powerful editing tools for work with OpenStreetMap data and a worldwide community of users.

While it may seem that the use of GIS will automatically increase the accuracy of map outputs, it may paradoxically lead to a reduction of accuracy, in the case of using crowdsourcing in the process of collecting spatial information. This can happen especially if the participants are motivated to identify elements at any cost, even if they are outside their knowledge area (Brown, 2012).


For use PGIS is not possible to clearly define the steps because each project is so unique, so if decide to use a PGIS method, it is recommended to contact the author for more information.

Resources and tools

According to the project settings, but certainly PC and GIS software.


The entire process is challenging technical literacy and requires further work with the data obtained. Therefore, it is recommended to pay enough time for the technical preparation and planning. The method is suitable in combination with GPS mapping.

Examples experiences, literature, etc..

Brown, G. (2012). An empirical evaluation of the spatial accuracy of public participation GIS (PPGIS) data. Applied Geography, 34, 289-294.

Brown, G., Kelly, M., & Whitall, D. (2013). Which “public”? Sampling effects in public participation GIS (PPGIS) and volunteered geographic information (VGI) systems for public lands management. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, (February), 1 to 25

Bugs, G., Granell, C., Fonts, O., Huerta, J., & Painho, M. (2010). An Assessment of Public Participation GIS {} and Web 2.0 technologies in urban planning practice in Canela, Brazil. Cities, 27 (3), 172-181.

Cartwright, W. (2012). Neocartography: Opportunities, issues and prospects. South African Journal of Geomatics, 1 (1), 14 to 31

Forrester, J., & Cinderby, P. (2012). A Guide to using Community-Participatory Mapping and GIS. Retrieved July 08, 2014

Goodchild, M. F. (2007). Citizens as sensors: the world of volunteered geography. GeoJournal, 1 to 15

Haklay, M. (2010). How good is volunteered Geographical Information? A comparative study of OpenStreetMap and Ordnance Survey datasets. Environment and Planning. B, Planning & Design, 37 (4), the 682nd

Kyem, P., & Saku, J. (2009). Web-based GIS and the future of participatory GIS applications Within local and indigenous communities. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 1-16

Lundin, J., Kovacic, P., & Poggiali, L. (2012). Youth and Digital Mapping in Urban Informal Settlements: Lessons Learned from Participatory Mapping Processes in Mathare in Nairobi, Kenya. Children Youth and Environments, 22 (2), 214-233.

Open Data Commons. (2013). ODC Open Database License (ODbL) Summary. Retrieved April 26, 2013.

OpenStreetMap Foundation. (2012). OpenStreetMap data license is ODbL. Retrieved February 12, 2013.

Panek, J. (2012). The commercialization of public data – how does participatory data-mining look on a global scale? In GISS Ukubuzana 2012 Conference Proceedings. Johannesburg.

Peng, Z. R. (2001). Internet GIS for public participation. Environment and Planning B, 28 (6), 889-906.

Tulloch, D. L. (2008). Is VGI participation? From vernal pools to video games. GeoJournal, 72 (3-4), 161-171.


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