Geospatial web podcast

Locative media freaks, geowankers, GIS hackers should have a glance at this discussion about geospatial web (available as a mp3 here, beware! 17Mb):

The many-talented Rekha Murthy was responsible for inspiring and producing the show, which features Mike Liebhold of the IFTF (who wrote most of the preface to "Mapping Hacks"), Christopher Allen from the trendy Yellow Arrow, and Peter Morville, the author of O'Reilly's Ambient Findability. Seasoned, jaded geo***ers may not find much new in it, but it would be a good thing for them to play to family and friends in an effort to explain what it is they are actually working on.

Why do I blog this? this discussion is definitely worth to listen to, in terms of the topics and the relevance of the point raised. Presentations are very clear and gives a good overview of the geospatial web phenomenon, as well as its links to pervasive computing. I like the difference of perspectives; for instance how GIS people sees the open innovation framework of this (free maps, free access to information, wifi to get away from the walled gardens of phone carriers...) whereas others thinks about how this could enslaves us (for that matter, the truck drivers "me and my nap" part is utterly pertinent!). As usual technology is about balancing advantages and drawbacks and this podcats gives clever points for both sides.

Here is a transcription of the talk:

Tom Ashbrook: A decade after its creation, the www now ubiquitous has made us blasé about information: we assume we can learn alsmost everything about almost anything at the touch of a keyboard but the revolution is hardly over. Now the digital round is epxloding in to the physical world: they call it the geospatial web. It means online maps loaded with information about the physical world; and someday, this physical world will be tagged and teeming with data: what is that buidling, where is my dog, who is that man?

Mike Liebhold (IFTF, Palo Alto): the geospatial web (geoweb) is a combination of digital map data combined with web-like hypermedia (web pages, video/audio objects) that are tagged with location coordinates in addition to a url. as you move through the world, if your device knows where it is, it can retrieve information about the area.

blackberry, cellular telephone, it could be a device like a swiss army knife that has location-sensing capabilities, a ad-hoc computer, a music player or it might be what is called a personal information ensemble: you might have an earbud in your ear connected wirelessly to your phone clipped on your belt, you might have a necklace with a camera, a wristband with a keypad. over time, we will have a whole range of devices to support augmented perceptions.

there is a variation of geolocation techniques and gps is only one; it is also possible to listen to wifi hotspots or to cellular telephone towers or even television towers.

examples of the kind of things done with maps on the internet: - people have taken google maps (the interface is simple enough), a little bit of code and paste it into a webpage and render google maps on their own webpage and then add point of interest or geo-annotation: it's called mash-ups. MS and yahoo are coming with similar things. Limit: you can't integrate information from more than 2 websites on a single-map simultaneously currently. that would require a technology called GIS (geographical information system) and that is the other revolution on the web: map information are available on the web in new standards: open formats that allows data to be integrated in a single view: data from multiple sources will ultimately be integrated. - there is a lot of experiments from the last 2-3 years, especially from a vibrant underground movements of computer programmers, digital mappers, artists, political activists such as the Locative Media Lab group (northern europe, boston, sf, nyc...)... as you move through the streets of amsterdam you can hear people telling stories... besides these experimental things, there are two other kind of things happening: - google mashup (like crime statistics overlayed on chicago maps): this kind of civic maps are created everyday all across the world in standard map format layered together. Often this information has not been widely accessible. the mobile companies offer some limited location-based services in what might be called walled gardens: you can only get the information provided the network carrier (yellow pages information about stores, prepackaged points of interests like historical points) and in most cases you cannot access to things out of this because the phone companies wants to control the access to info. - now people will have information attached to them that others could access: right now we're limited in what we know about the world (what we have inside our heads, what we've learnt, what someone had told us), now it might be different: you will have information connected to the place. but about people... there is a huge concern about privacy... about the information people disclose wirelessly about themselves.

-- jeff: example of a sailor who give access to his information through google earth: a way to explore the world cyberly --

Christopher Allen (Yellow Arrow, NYC): When you see a yellow arrow somewhere you know that there is more, some hidden details; each arrow links to someone's experience to a real location. people place yellow arrow to tag information to a location. ordinary people happen to have a yellow arrow decal, they fix it to some object and make a note about that object; then anybody who comes along can read the message with their device (pda, blackberry...): the most used version is the sticker who has a unique code on it, you send a text message with that code to the yellow arrow phone number and you get back the messages of the person who places the sticker. a very simple mean of leaving messages at a specific location without having to use GPS/wifi. We call it a massively authored artistic publication.

Examples of stickers: people add stickers to photograph in galeries and people can place comments ("a large projection of the game tetris" on an arrow which pointed on a buidling in copenhagen that said "what can happen in that place?", an it happened).

Where all of this is going? everything can have information attached to it? one of the most interesting aspects = sharing info in communities, to get enriching details about the world and the environment.

-- david (a homeland security consultant): comment about the fact this can save lives, flickr memory map to tag a house where you lived (to build a history of the house) or in Katrina's case, it can help to locate people; or you can locate people, with a low tech version such as dodgeball (they use database of cellphone numbers of your friends; on a social basis, it sends out a blast of message to all of your friends but only to those who are in the block radius, useful in the case of a disaster) --

Mike Libehold about the flickr memory maps: a lot of information can remain private; the only information that might be publically = civic data, reports... Tom Ashbrook is concerned by the fact that anybody can put information, Liebhold says that in many cases users can correct this (as in wikipedia)

Liebhold about yellow arrow: whereas now there is a real tag (the sticker), in the future, information could appear without fixing a piece of material/graffiti : just the location coordinates alone will be enough to retrieve information that someone left at this place.

-- joe (editor of a magazine in the field): business benefit for consumers like logistics: to retrieve location information at their fingertips, locate trucks... we're not that far away to locate a purple ulla-oop I would like to buy in the vicinity: Liebhold says that it's possible with Google Froogle which has local capabilities: show a map of local retailers nearby --

Chris Allen: I don't welcome the idea of geo-spam: the fact that company can send me ads based on my location. or having too much data or data that I did not request.

Peter Morville (Ambient Findability, Michigan): "what we find changes who we become" ubiquitous findable objects (ufo): increasing ability to track the location of objects (projects in the supply chain, pets, our physical selves...)... his favorite device = wifi watch with a gps built-in: to track the location of your child: people like or hate and other complains that it does not work enough; useful to keep track of kids in disney world...

a new framework of laws to protect us against this tacking? the technology is raising the head of society/laws/ethics... (see book about RFID: spychips, some valide concerns).

-- lee (a truckdriver): have a gps tracking system, everybody know where I am and what I am doing, it's terrible. before I could take a nap without any problems (it was me and my nap) and now... it's impossible (how come you're not moving?) --

examples by Liebhold: shipping logistics + civic/facilities workers + health workers to keep track of epidemics + farmers to precisely map fields + people in tribal area to record tracking history +

tom asbrook: ...geo-annotation is not widely done as in the USA...

Libehold: now there is a movement started by a group of people in London (open map movement) to make digital map available for the public and not by sale without copyright. they slowly created their map of london. Besies, there's a lot of movements to preserve privacy and does not disclose location information to other people: people have developped RFID jammers to be immune from surveillance.

Morville: no laws against it (RFID chips tracking) so far but there are allready anti-theft devices...

-- rich: what concerns me is the push to move towards the walled gardens: privately owned information that you pay for access to; is anybody considering the risks with standards --

Morville: governement should create digital parks as they do when buying part of the land and open them up as public parks! move towards an internet of objects

-- rick: better to meet people to listen to their stories instead of going to flickr to know the place history... tom ashbrook says it's the same as looking at graffitis "bob loves sue". Chris Allen says that yes it's democratic but not everybody has a cellphone to access to it --

Liebhold: there are lots of wonderful standards for a while to make information available (since gore) but about equity and access, it turned out that the cell phone is the world's computer: if cell phone are equiped with wifi access, then you don't necessarily have to dial to a commercial access: wifi can give you location informaiton and access to the web in a way that it does not cost money and it does not necessarily give your location. this device will be cheap enough that less privilged people can have access to geospatial informartion.

-- steve (salesman): sometimes I'd like to know what I'm looking at, it's cool if anybody tells what they see. the world as an open book --

Tom Asbrook to Peter Morville: how do you imagine human culture interacting with this technology over time: the geoweb as part of a broader trend: ambien findability: finding anything anywhere at anytime, as a librarian and information architecte I am sensible to the huge design of proper applications that would work for people: a central challenge: designing user-friendly systems to access to these information.

Tom: what about people who want to get lost? there will be always this possibility! lots of surprising will be along the ay (example: serendipity)

Liebhold about the timetable of this: MS, google and yahoo are raising their heads to build these capabilities and they are joined by leading GIS/mappign frism like ESRI; the challenge will be to have interoperable data that work together. A group in Boston is working on a standard way to do this.