Neighborhood boundaries the next frontier in geodata

February 13, 2008

Political boundaries of course are hard and fixed. Mental maps that we carry around with us (‘safe’ vs ‘unsafe’ areas, neighborhoods) are not so fixed. Marketers and researchers have used zip codes to delimit neighborhoods for their purposes, but using zip codes are too coarsely grained or provide incomplete boundaries.

Neighborhood mapping requires some combination of the hard and fixed, and mostly mental mapping:

At Maponics, there are two parts to data creation. The first focuses on finding resources. What public and private data exist about neighborhoods? Maponics staffers seek and gather information that’s available. What if such data do not exist for a city? Then the company creates the boundaries with input from its many customers, especially those in real estate, who, like the direct mailers, know their geographies. Clement chooses the term “expert sourcing” to describe a process that includes only those with knowledge of the topic, to contrast it with “crowd sourcing,” where just about anyone can have input.

A real issue with neighborhood mapping is the fuzzy boundaries. Perceptions of what makes up a neighborhood varies within and without the area. For the data to be useful for some purposes, enough of the fuzziness has to be removed so you can have clearly enough defined boundaries.


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