Welcome to the research project

Citizen Reporting through GeoSocial Media: Opportunities and Barriers

This project is conducted by Shanqi Zhang, under the supervision of Dr. Rob Feick of the University of Waterloo, Canada.

The study is for a PhD thesis.


The objective of the study is to explore the potential of citizens using geo-located social media to report issues to local governments. Citizens reporting sidewalk issues is used as a case study, and we are interested in how would you evaluate the quality of geo-located social media information in representing sidewalk issues.

Note: You do NOT need to use social media (e.g. Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, etc.) to participate in this study.

What you need to do

As a volunteer participant, you will be asked to complete two tasks for this study.

First, follow the instruction on the web site and get an idea of what geo-located social media is and how can geosocial media be used by local governments.

Second, complete a 10-15-minute online survey about how you evaluate the usefulness of communicating social media information to local governments.

What you need to know

Participation in this study is completely voluntary. You may decline to answer any questions that you do not wish to answer. You may withdraw your participation at any time by ceasing use of the web site or by not submitting your responses.

It is important to understand the public nature of social media, especially as Twitter and Flickr make all information accessible to anyone from their databases. You can set your accounts to private; however the default is public. We will fetch the messages and photos you distribute to Twitter and Flickr through normal public access routes. These messages and photos will be used only for display and no identifiable information or associations will be published or saved.

The survey will be hosted on SurveyMonkey. If you prefer not to submit your survey responses through this host, please contact the researcher(s) so you can participate using an alternative method, such as through an email or paper-based survey. All of the survey data will be summarized and no individual will be identifiable from these summarized results.

The data, with no personal identifiers, collected from this study will be maintained on a password-protected computer database in a restricted access area of the university. Also, the data will be electronically archived after completion of the study and maintained for five years and then erased.

To help pedestrians move around, the web site provides additional information about sidewalk closures and allows you to find pedestrian paths around the central transit corridor area in downtown Kitchener. All of this information is based on cities of Waterloo and Kitchener’s open data. Although we are trying to keep the data most current, there are potential risks that the sidewalk information are not up-to-date and that there could be unexpected situations on the street given the often changing conditions of sidewalks during the construction. You may adjust the route according to the real-world situation.

This study has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through a University of Waterloo Research Ethics Committee. However, the final decision to participate is yours.

If you have any comments or concerns resulting from your participation in this study, please contact the Chief Ethics Officer, Office of Research Ethics, at 1-519-888-4567, ext. 36005 or ore-ceo@uwaterloo.ca.