OpenStreetMap growth in large cities has been investigated in numerous academic and informal studies; yet, there has been less inquiry into who and what OpenStreetMap represents in smaller towns and cities where no organized mapping groups exist.
Outside of major urban areas, how much of OpenStreetMap is built by local resident enthusiasts and how much comes from data imports, random fixes, casual passers by, and hobbyists? I explore this question by diving into the OpenStreetMap edit history of the mid American town of Salina, Kansas, population approximately 50,000. Looking for clues in changeset comments, OpenStreetMap user profiles, and geographic footprints of contributor activity, I construct a picture of how the map grew in Salina, including who contributed and why.
To compare contributor influence, I place each person’s edits into a mosaic of small multiple maps. I also compare each user’s number of edits in Salina with his or her total contributions to OpenStreetMap, revealing contributors who likely have a primary interest in the area.
The purpose of this study is to create greater awareness of the different influences and motives we see when looking at OpenStreetMap, and think about how these might affect the data’s fitness for use in different contexts.