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Tag Archives: geotagging

While many write about the various ways that the Internet makes us less safe, namely cyberbullying or being attacked by someone you met on Craigslist, it is also important to look at the new possibilities the web creates to ease suffering occurring in the physical world. When the Cyborgology editors recently spoke to WYPR about cyberbullying, we also discussed cybersupport, as is the case of Dan Savage’s It Gets Better YouTube project. The folks at WYPR also pointed us to another interesting example, the Egypt-based Harassmap created by a group of volunteer techno-activists. According to this report [.pdf], 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of female travelers to this country report being harassed. Given the very limited legal recourse for women in Egypt, this online tool is one way to provide voice to the vulnerable.

The map above is a screen-shot from the Harassmp site. Women in Cairo can report incidences of sexual harassment from their mobile phones via text message. The incident that occurred in the physical world is then digitized as a plot on the map using the phone’s GPS. This provides the masses a reality now augmented with a digital layer that seeks to “act as an advocacy, prevention, and response tool, highlighting the severity and pervasiveness of the problem.” The story of social media is not just how it harms people, but also how it helps.

View the map here. More information here (scroll down for English).

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While many write about the various ways that the Internet makes us less safe, namely cyberbullying or being attacked by someone you met on Craigslist, it is also important to look at the new possibilities the web creates to ease suffering occurring in the physical world. When the Cyborgology editors recently spoke to WYPR about cyberbullying, we also discussed cybersupport, as is the case of Dan Savage’s It Gets Better YouTube project. The folks at WYPR also pointed us to another interesting example, the Egypt-based Harassmap created by a group of volunteer techno-activists. According to this report [.pdf], 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of female travelers to this country report being harassed. Given the very limited legal recourse for women in Egypt, this online tool is one way to provide voice to the vulnerable.

The map above is a screen-shot from the Harassmp site. Women in Cairo can report incidences of sexual harassment from their mobile phones via text message. The incident that occurred in the physical world is then digitized as a plot on the map using the phone’s GPS. This provides the masses a reality now augmented with a digital layer that seeks to “act as an advocacy, prevention, and response tool, highlighting the severity and pervasiveness of the problem.” The story of social media is not just how it harms people, but also how it helps.

View the map here. More information here (scroll down for English).

by nathan jurgenson

Tim O’Reilly coined the phrase “Web 2.0”, and while the term has been differently used, I have boiled it down to the recent explosion of user-generated content (thus the focus on prosumption). This past summer, O’Reilly has declared another new era, what he calls “Web Squared”:

“There’s […] a qualitative change happening as the Web becomes more closely integrated with the real world via sensor-based smart phone applications. Web Squared is another way of saying “Web meets World.”

Wikitude3We can boil this phrase (if one wants to even preserve it) down to a fundamentally important trend: the increased blurring of the digital and material worlds. This trend has been discussed in some of my previous posts on “geotagging” and “location awareness”. These tools, often used via “smart”, GPS-enabled mobile phones, track and display users’ geographic locations in many different ways, such as on one’s Facebook or Twitter accounts. I have argued that (1-macro) these technologies are the further intrusion of capitalism into increasingly intimate aspects of our selves and lives, and (2-micro) the documentation of one’s location is a new task of performing the self and identity, fueling the ‘digital culture of narcissism’.

In addition to “geotagging” and “location awareness”, another important trend is that of “augmented reality”: the merging of material reality with digital information, as well as the augmentation of digitality with materiality (note that this later trend is not focused on by either O’Reilly or the Wikipedia article). Google’s Street View gives us this implosion, and real-time versions of this already exist, as evidenced by the video below. Google’s Picasa can now recognize billions of people’s faces and tag them automatically. Video games have been trending towards the addition of materiality, most dramatically when the Nintendo Wii took the market by storm by making the digital game play less about pushing buttons, and more about traditional material-world movements. Sony has announced that it will also release a “motion controller” for the Playstation 3 system and Microsoft is creating a motion controller for the Xbox 360 that will also incorporate a camera, depth sensor and a microphone, creating a video game experience where one does not have to push any buttons at all.

This speaks to a fundamental way of conceptualizing and theorizing the Internet specifically, and spaces and places generally: that digital and material realities dialectically co-construct each other. For example, social networking sites (e.g., MySpace, Facebook) are not separate from the physical world, but rather they have everything to do with it, and the physical world has much to do with digital socializing. No longer can we think of a “real” world opposed to being “online”. Instead, we need to think with a paradigm that centers on the implosion of the worlds of bits and atoms into the augmented reality that has seemingly become ascendant. ~nathan

by nathanjurgenson

Apple-iPhone-001Recently, this blog [note: this was originally posted over at Sociology Lens] has focused on the labor of the crowds. I have posted that the “prosumers of the world should unite” and have continued to write on the topic. Bmckernan expertly handled the topic when discussing “light” capitalism and more recently pj.rey convincingly demonstrated that prosumption is a structural force at play in the death of old media. This post is driven by the recent announcement that Facebook, now nearly the size of the United States, has become profitable (or “cash flow positive“). This re-ignites the debate around companies profiting from increasingly personal and intimate information about ourselves and our lives.

As prosumers on Facebook (that is, we both produce and consume the content on the site), we display ourselves and our socializing with others, and it is precisely this data, this digital goldmine, that Facebook leverages for profit. Another trend of intimate data being shared has to do with “geotagging” and “location awareness” tools.

Location awerness simply refers to tools -often utilizing “smart” mobile phones that are GPS-enabled and always in our pockets- that track and display one’s geographic location. The Loopt iPhone app does just this by keeping track of where the user is and helping them share the information with others. Yahoo has the Fire Eagle service, Google has Google Latitude, and Twitter has also begun to “geotag” tweets with their geographical location. Given these technologies, we can share our past and current geographical locations with ourselves and others by plotting them on maps, posting them as our Facebook or Twitter statuses and so on.

In these examples, we see that the very titans of Web 2.0 capitalism are set to profit (or at least try to) from another intimate source of data: where one is physically located at any given moment. The degree to which these tools become ubiquitous is the degree to which our very lives become a source of ‘intimate profit’. To this point, and I’ll leave with a question to tackle in a later post: does it matter that companies profit from increasingly intimate user-data regarding their self/their socializing/their very location if users find these tools useful? ~nathan