Trust but Verify: Validating New Measures for Mapping Social Infrastructure in Cities

Paper by Timothy Fraser et al: “Scholars and policymakers increasingly recognize the value of social capital – the connections that generate and enable trust among people – in responding to and recovering from shocks and disasters. However, some communities have more social infrastructure, that is, sites that produce and maintain social capital, than others. Community centers, libraries, public pools, and parks serve as locations where people can gather, interact, and build social ties. Much research on urban spaces relies on Google maps because of its ubiquity and this article tests the degree to which it can accurately, reliably, and effectively capture social infrastructure. In this study, we map the social infrastructure of Boston using Google Maps Places API and then ground truth our measures, mapping social infrastructure on street corners with in-person site observations to evaluate the accuracy of available data. We find that though we may need to use multi-vectored measurement when trying to capture social infrastructure, Google maps serve as reliable measurements with a predictable, acceptable margin of error…(More)”.