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Classification through consultation: public views of the geography of the e-Society

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Although viewed by business and commerce as successful solutions, geodemographic profiling of neighbourhoods has attracted wide-ranging criticism in the academic literature. This paper addresses some specific concerns that arise because the derivation of classifications is rarely transparent and open to scrutiny or challenge. The substantive focus of the research reported in this paper is a nationwide geodemographic classification of how people engage with new information and communication technologies (ICTs). In response to the critique of geodemographics as a 'black box' technology, we describe how the classification was opened up to public scrutiny and how we conducted a major consultation exercise into the reliability of its results. We assess the message of the 50,000+ searches and 3952 responses collected during the consultation exercise, in terms of possible systematic errors in the shape and detail of the classification. Unusually for Internet-based surveys, we also investigate the likely reliability of the response information received and identify ways in which the outcome of consultation might be used to improve the classification. We believe that this is the first-ever large-scale consultation survey of the validity and remit of a geodemographic classification and that it may have wider implications for the creation of geodemographic classifications.
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Keywords: Geodemographics; Information and communications technologies; e-Society

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University College London, London, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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