Sharing Semantic Territorial Interpretation: The Contribution of OnToMap Project to Spatial Planning

Sharing Semantic Territorial Interpretation: The Contribution of OnToMap Project to Spatial Planning

Angioletta Voghera (Politecnico di Torino, Italy) and Luigi La Riccia (Politecnico di Torino, Italy)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5999-3.ch006
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This chapter explores the theme of collaborative construction of territorial knowledge through the use of ICTs, proposing a new approach to spatial representation based on semantic ontologies. The theoretical perspective is applied in a recent experimentation conducted in collaboration between the Politecnico di Torino and the Università degli Studi di Torino, called OnToMap – Community Maps 3.0. The chapter is divided into two parts. The first part aims to define the theoretical framework of collaborative mapping practices and VGI, social semantic mapping, GIScience, and Web 3.0 applications, specifying which approach to participation is assumed as conceptual background. The second part focuses on the web-based application OnToMap, which relies on a territorial ontology for encourage construction of collective and shared knowledge of places. The chapter ends with a reflection on semantic and cartographic representation of urban space and its potential in terms of citizen empowerment.
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In 1968, long before our digitally increased cities were made available by companies like Google, the French philosopher Henri Lefebvre described what he named the right to the city. He argued that the great potential of urban life should be available to all, not just the most powerful elites that own and control most of our cities. The goals of his battle for more just and inclusive cities were those who traditionally play mediation roles in the development of urban policies that produce inequalities: property owners, the state and the police, etc. The right to the city has never been thought of as a set of codified rules, but has become part of the claims and slogans against exclusion that have brought different types of benefits to the inhabitants of the cities.

Territorial planning has always been involved in the representation of space since the 1970s (Dennis, 1970), when it recognized as essential the support of social actors in the decision-making process. The participatory construction of spatial representations evolved ever since: starting from the paper representation (low usability and scalability) it moved to the use of GIS and PGIS systems (Steiniger & Hunter, 2013).

Recent innovations in ICT are significantly changing the technology-society relationship, with implication on spatial planning. At the same time, the procedures used to conduct scientific research are being revolutionized by the exponential increase in the amount of available data. This condition is having a important influence on methodologies which are used to analyse, study and develop scientific research related to urban planning and primarily concern territorial data usage and, for this reason, are independent from the method used for data processing and mapping. As an example, big data analysis is directly connected with the possibility to include in the used databases data and information that previously could not be treated as data. This information, as well as providing the necessary databases for the development of statistical high correspondence analyses, also interacts with new kind of data basins, thus increasing the range of possible applications: it is possible, for example, to build and obtain geo-information regarding flows (people, things and information), perceptions and personal evaluations of specific places and landscapes.

The European Smart City model, meaning the set of strategic actions to make cities intelligent, digital and inclusive, is closely connected to the development of infrastructures dedicated to communication and social participation. The smart city concept has been quite fashionable in the policy arena in recent years: compared with the concept of digital city or intelligent city, the main focus is not limited to the role of ICT infrastructure but is mainly concentrated on the role of social, economic and environmental issues. There are various different forms of expression of the smart city in practice: “e-government”, or “e-gov” (AOEMA, 2005) identifies the possibility to improve the quality, rapidity and reliability of services provided to citizens by public administrations, thanks to the digitalisation of administrative apparatus (Clift, 2004). However, this model also refers to “learning communities”, meaning communities focused upon sharing knowledge (European Commission, 2015).

In this area, attention is paid to the use of ICT for sharing geographical knowledge in support of spatial design and urban planning. In line with institutional practices of transferring geographical knowledge on digital media through the construction of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), within web 2.0, new possibilities were configured for citizens to construct voluntary and spontaneously geographic knowledge, using different digital media (Goodchild, 2007, 2009).

This chapter constitutes a reflection about the theme of collaborative production of geographical knowledge by constructing a technical framework at international level, showing a recent experimentation conducted in Politecnico di Torino with the students of Urban Planning Course (Architecture Course). In particular, the focus of the experimentation was oriented towards the implementation of a synergic exchange with OnToMap – Mappe di Comunità 3.02, which is based on an ontology in the terms described by Gruber (1995) as an explicit specification of a conceptualization.

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