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Using provenance to disambiguate locational references in social network posts

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Location data from social network posts are attractive for answering all sorts of questions by spatial analysis. However, it is often unclear what this information locates. Is it a point of interest (POI), the device at the time of posting, or something else? As a result, locational references in posts may get misinterpreted. For example, a restaurant check-in on Facebook only locates that POI. But, check-ins have been used to locate their poster, their poster’s home, or where the posting event occurred. Furthermore, post metadata terms like place and location are ambiguous, making information integration difficult. Consequently, analysts may not be using the correct locational references pertinent to their questions. In this paper, we attempt to clarify and systematize what can be located within social network post metadata. We examine locational references in post metadata documentation from several social networks. We identify three common groups of locatable things: places recorded in a poster’s profile, devices, and points of interest. We posit that these groups can be described using The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) provenance ontology (PROV) – in particular, PROV’s agent, activity, and entity concepts. Next, we encode example post metadata with these descriptions, and show how they support answering questions such as which country’s citizens take the most Flickr photos of the Eiffel Tower? The theoretical contribution of this work is a taxonomy of locatable things derived from social network posts, and a tool-supported method for describing them to users.
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Keywords: Provenance; posts; reference

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

Publication date: August 3, 2019

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