A Tale of Cities: Urban Biases in Volunteered Geographic Information


  • Brent Hecht University of Minnesota
  • Monica Stephens University at Buffalo, State University of New York




volunteered geographic information, urban, rural, Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr


Geotagged tweets, Foursquare check-ins and other forms of volunteered geographic information (VGI) play a critical role in numerous studies and a large range of intelligent technologies. We show that three of the most commonly used sources of VGI – Twitter, Flickr, and Foursquare – are biased towards urban perspectives at the expense of rural ones. Utilizing a geostatistics-based approach, we demonstrate that, on a per capita basis, these important VGI datasets have more users, more information, and higher quality information within metropolitan areas than outside of them. VGI is a subset of user-generated content (UGC) and we discuss how our results suggest that urban biases might exist in non-geographically referenced UGC as well. Finally, because Foursquare is exclusively made up of VGI, we argue that Foursquare (and possibly other location-based social networks) has fundamentally failed to appeal to rural populations.




How to Cite

Hecht, B., & Stephens, M. (2014). A Tale of Cities: Urban Biases in Volunteered Geographic Information. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 8(1), 197-205. https://doi.org/10.1609/icwsm.v8i1.14554