This link is to a piece by Richard Campanella, an extremely popular New Orleans geographer who has written many books on the New Orleans region. He has become the regional go-to guy describing how this place shapes its people and how its people shape the place.
When I saw this piece on how he uses Google Street View to analyze a place better, I could see how it could reach beyond the world of academics and into the DIY world of farmers markets and public space.
How we measure markets is important yet we don’t have the luxury of choosing between all of the data collection methods that researchers in a controlled environment have available to them. Market organizers don’t always have access to teams of eager data collectors and analysts such as those a university professor can quickly assemble among their students. Because of those limitations, the more adventurous we are in seeking the most appropriate methods*, the better chance we will find the right suite of tools for our needs. The use of Google Street View could clearly assist a market searching for a new location, or help to decide how to lay out the market better or unveil the current uses of the area around a market in order to find program partners. Imagine using it for showing impact: taking a screenshot of an empty litter-strewn lot and then a year later showing photographs of that same area with a vibrant market now popping up. That set of pictures is almost enough for a market’s first-year annual report!
Campanella’s method is simple and could be easily used on a smaller cross-section than he did for New Orleans. Basically, he chose points across the area from 2016 to drop “Pegman” to see a 360-degree view of the area. Noting the density and activity of street life, graffiti, and bicycles, he then compared it to the earliest available imagery from 2007.
While Google Street View images are not regularly used in scholarly research, they can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional social-surveying methods, under the right conditions. Public health experts have used Street View as a neighborhood auditing tool, and have found it to be a reliable indicator of broader trends and patterns, if not fine targeted phenomena. And researchers at the MIT Media Lab used pairs of geo-tagged street images to “map the inequality of urban perception” by soliciting online input about which scene looked “safer,” “more upper class,” and “more unique.” Urban planners Reid Ewing and Otto Clemente assessed the viability of Google Street View and its competitors Bing Streetside and Everyscape for counting pedestrians, compared with live street surveys. They found that human raters were reliable in online counting and that Google Street View had the strongest correlation with live counts (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.864 on a scale of zero to one). Other researchers have proposed methods to remove people from images automatically, which would enable more systematic studies. Until such tools are widely available, researchers will have to devise sampling strategies, set up protocols, and manually deploy that invaluable remote assistant, Pegman..
I hope to see this method utilized by some markets in 2018.
*If you are searching for current methods already in use to measure your market, do check out the tool we have been working on for the last few years at FMC called Farmers Market Metrics. The collection methods are free and available to anyone who wants to use them and do not need an active account. The good news is that the Metrics Program will be available to markets in early 2018 which will be explained via webinar announced soon.
Also, check out the FMC Resource Library for the piece on visitor count methods that I did recently, and keep an eye for the visitor survey article I am doing now, which will also be posted to the Resource Library.