Extreme case of location-based services: parole offenders
In Accountabilities of Presence: Reframing Location-Based Systems, Troshynski, Lee and Dourish address the extreme case of paroled offenders tracked by GPS and describe lessons that can be drawn from this unconventional realm of location-based systems.Here is how the system works:
"Location information is continuously reported to a monitoring center through a direct link to a localized cellular telephone network. (...) The GPS system allows correctional officials to define geographic areas from which released and supervised offenders are prohibited, a condition of their parole (...) The GPS monitoring devices are able to trigger alarms or warning notices upon approach of any such previously defined prohibited zones."
Some excerpts about this that I found relevant to my research:
"the use of GPS tracking technologies are intended to maintain a series of spatial prohibitions for this population, to limit their mobility and enforce a series of proscriptions that are part of the conditions of their parole (...) In a dispute between MapQuest’s view and the evidence of the odometer, it is MapQuest that will generally “win. (...) it is the representation of the space provided to the technological system that matters, because, however inaccurate it may be, it is the system against which measurements are made. (...) This study illuminates the relationship between technology and the legibility of space, that is, the way in which spatial organization manifests itself for people who occupy and navigate it. (...) The participants in our study are primarily concerned with understanding how their movement appear to their Parole Officers. The question of course is how that understanding is developed. How does one learn how one is seen by another through the system? How does one learn, for example, how to account for the vagaries of GPS positioning or the problems of “drop-out”? (...) The offender tracking system is inherently asymmetric, at least in its current configuration, so that offenders are unable to see how their movements can be read as potentially appropriate or problematic except as a consequence of infractions, at which point the mediating technology may become a point of discussion. (...) The issue is not where one might be, and when; it is to whom one might be accountable for one’s presence, to whom, under what circumstances, and how one might be called to account. (...) accountabilities to different social groups are heterogeneous—the settings in which action is undertaken are rich and complex. (...) the heterogeneous nature of accountabilities does not presuppose any particular structure of everyday space but rather situates accountability within the context of the practices from which spatial organization emerges (...) the heterogeneous nature of accountabilities necessitates an orientation towards spatiality as an ongoing form of participation in social and cultural life."
Why do I blog this? The study of less common case of LBS is interesting a it leads to different issues and effectively help to reframe the perspective about their design and usage. I rather insisted on spatial consequences but the discussion about the temporal implications is important (charging time of the GPS unit, dynamic reconfiguration of places where the parole can or can't go...) as well as the GPS system as a device affixed to the body