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Mar 11, 2005



Or, like the writers of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, simply create an artificial universe where you can do your reporting. In the real world, Frogstar fighters are gunmetal grey.


Good stuff. These are definitely two things coming up and coming together: 3D digital worlds and the geospatial web.

I recently came across a John Udell article, Annotating the Planet with Google Maps, that very much captured my imagination. Just look at his amazing voice-narrated screencast to get the big idea. You knew this was coming, but it’s a pleasure to witness its arrival. So simple.

Udell calls Google Maps “an environment we [will] colonize” and (during the screencast) notes that "In the very near future there are going to be billions of people walking around the planet with GPS-aware phones. I used to wonder what kinds of things we'd be able to do with them. Now it's clear: we are going to use them to collectively annotate the planet."

That’s hot stuff. It’s like the first World Wide Web fish crawling out of the cyber ocean and growing spatial legs or something. Soon I suppose we’ll see WikiCity.

In the post Greg mentions A9’s new blockview (built from GPS-enabled cameras), which is also really cool. I characterize a lot of this stuff as “location intelligence,” a term coined by the mobile location blogging and alert company, WaveMarket (who by the way just got funded to the tune of $9.4 million—we got realtime media, now we’re gonna get realspace too).

On the stitched satellite imaging side we've also recently seen Google's purchase of the Keyhole geographic information system and the re-release of NASA’s World Wind digital earth (kind of a 2 & 1/2D Earth model that companies like Forterra are starting to try and build in massively multi-user 3D).

This is all very exciting. Most virtual worlds discussion is still at the gaming/ludological end of the scale (which makes sense because most VWs are designed and marketed as games :-). But if anyone can point me towards more of the 3D real world-mapping apps I’d much appreciate it. I try to find as much as I can and have staked out a little bit of thinking in this area, but I still haven’t found the buzzing community like I have around MMORPGs.


Jerry --

Thanks a bunch for your thoughts. The Udell article is exactly what I was thinking about -- and "annotating the planet" sounds like a catchy meme to me. :-)

What I wonder about is exactly how the ambient data fields will be structured -- I figure it will first be appearing on a pocket device with a screen and building off the Web -- but will there be physically pinned private/premium platforms/datasets that aren't integrated? And how tightly will that data be pinned to physical geography? And will there be spam problems? Ad-based revenues? Special eyeglasses a la William Gibson? ;-)

If you find a community -- please post a link here. (And you might check out Nicolas Nova's RSS feed, if you haven't yet.)




Pointing to:

Doug Rushkoff's "Honey I Geo-Tagged the Kids


Nicolas Nova caught the Rushkoff piece too and has more links/thoughts:


Feels like a meme cresting -- expect panels on collaborative cartography at Etech and SXSW next year. :-)


Hi Greg and gang,

Just put a new post on my blog with two relevant ideas ideas here:

1. "WikiCities" which would combine core elements of Wikipedia and Google Maps, allowing users to "garden" geospatial content and keep it fresh by weeding out spam, etc.

2. Pinning interactive 3D world files (ala the defunct Adobe Atmosphere) to the mapspace. This file-based 3D recreation of a real coffee shop (made in Atmosphere) caught my eye, and there's no reason you can't attach 3D files like this to a 2D map! Like Block View 3.0 or something...

>Feels like a meme cresting -- expect panels on collaborative cartography at Etech and SXSW next year. :-)

Expect panels at Accelerating Change this year! :-) (site being built)

Thanks for the links above.


More steps along the path:



This is a topic that I and many other architects and architecture students find particularly interesting, for obvious reasons. My M.Arch. studio project at Columbia's GSAPP this semester is in fact all about this. Basically, I'm working from an assumption that handheld/implanted GPS devices, heads-up displays (on that topic: I assume you're familiar with Steve Mann's work and ideas about "mediated reality"), and RFIDs will combine in the very near future to create something like the "annotated reality" to which Jerry P. refers above. But I think it will also be, for the majority of people, an extremely targeted and manipulative kind of annotation. Every piece of public space (e.g. sidewalk space) will be a location where you will be subjected to targeted marketing. You may be able to filter this, but that is also a bit of a problem, because inevitably you will be filtering out things you'd rather not have, or SHOULDN'T have, missed.

Anyway, my studio project is a proposal for a virtual "fog" that is an overlay over a near-future L.A., and which provides an un-predictable, un-customizable fluctuation in how wireless devices inter-connect. A sort of "weather" for virtual-world intrusions into the RW. My premise is that people will voluntarily sign up for this, as a social mixer if nothing else.

I wish I could share a link about this project, but I'm still bringing it all together. My final review is in a week... I will try to post a link after that, because I would love to hear any T-Ner's opinion on it. But the point of this post is really to say that we need to think very clearly and ambitiously about how to carve out a public territory in the annotated, mediated, skinned, "R + many Vs" World. Otherwise we'll end up with a world where everybody carries around his custom-made filter through which he samples what he likes from the underlying reality/virtuality. We will lose the ability to bear witness, and we will lose our exposure to happenstance. We will also create even deeper divides between those who are wired and those who are not.


Hey George, thanks for the comments. Definitely do post a link when you have the time.

As always, I'm fascinated simply by the sci-fi/infotech aspect of all this, but my real interest in exploring it is to ferret out what this type of change might imply for social policy and law -- and your point of caution about the possible digital divide looming here, and the dangers of gated virtual communities imposed on public space, is, imho, just right. A skinned world means that even a public forum might not be effectively public anymore, because a private information space will exist on top of the public geographic space.

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