[Geowanking] beyond map mashups
steve at adam.com.au
Sun Jun 22 03:47:33 PDT 2008
On 21/06/2008, at 3:58 AM, Randy George wrote:
> However, as technology changes, and modeling restraints move away
> from static 2D, a second type of user is emerging. This second type
> is more of an explorer and finds himself frustrated by a limited
> focus chosen by some anonymous map maker. He wants to have control
> of focus himself. In this case the user wants to invest meaning for
This is the class of users that I belong to, as I would like to
explore my world and retrieve meanings linked to what I see, rather
than having my attention directed into predetermined categories. The
visualisation for what I would like is similar to various science
fiction stories where there is an overlay of information, manipulated
in real time to drill into relevant enquiries.
The counter-visualisation is that many "universal interfaces" have
been invented before, and they need a particular approach, mindset or
some other filtering factor that prevents them from being used, or
desired, by everyone. As an example, English based tagging is not of
much interest to people who speak other languages, and a couple of
words without context lead themselves to ready misinterpretation.
> I think geospatial/mapping/cartography/gis is facing the same
> juncture. New media technology that allows user controlled focus is
> just now available, but the older way of thinking about cartography
> is still alive and well. I think somehow overcoming the novelty of
> new media will mean finding better ways to help users find their own
> focus while exploring all available data, geospatial or otherwise.
> Users get a bigger investment in meaning, map producers less.
There's still plenty of need for traditional maps with their red dots,
for things like marking out the location of houses for sale and other
intrinsically geographical information. Where it starts failing is the
need to start searching through layers to find the right one to
display the desired information on the map.
As a thought experiment, this is one possible way for combining 3d and
maps that strikes me every time I have this problem. Let's say that
it's 10pm at night and I feel like a coffee. I go to one of the local
coffee shops, but it is closed. At that point, I would like a map of
all the coffee places that are open. For me to achieve this with a
standard GIS interface, I would have to display the map of where I am,
then dig through 10,000,000 layers of various categorised information
to try and pull up one that reads "coffee shops", and then I would
have to look at each red dot displayed to open their web pages to find
their opening hours.
The information that I actually want is "coffee shops that are open
right now". That kind of information isn't going to be in a layer,
because it would have to be split off into "6am to 3pm", "7am to 5pm",
"after 8pm", "after 11pm" and various other combinations. The cost of
finding the layer exceeds the benefit.
So while I'm standing in front of the coffee shop, I'm thinking to
myself "GPS already knows where I am", "compass already knows what
direction I'm facing", "map already knows there's a building in front
of me", "business already knows what it sells". So there's no reason
why I can't just point in front of me and search for "same business,
show the ones open now". And _THAT_ is quite welcome to red-dot-fever
me to death as it flips from the 3d model of the mirror world to a 2d
The move from one kind of information to another, from 3d to 2d, is an
option that is now available that was not previously available. More
exploration in this area would yield interfaces that go past the "only
2d map information" problem up til now.
So the question becomes, "how do we store this information so that it
retains its context", as slotting opening hours into standard fields
limits the different types of information that can be pulled out. For
example, what if I don't care about opening hours, but I'm looking for
average noise levels from 2am to 6am? What if I want to know that this
store doesn't have planes or trains rumbling past at times other than
the open inspection?
What form of information storage can handle not only pre-determined
categories like Land Zoning, but is also able to capture gas
dispersion, rainfalls, number of flies during summer, and just
basically everything? Photographs are one immediately noticeable
avenue, as they capture and store actual impressions of reality.
Concentrating on capturing and interpreting records of reality seems
to be a good way to go.
Add in to that puzzle, the architecture of the system to support
capabilities. I can't see people mass-adopting central servers holding
private information (eg, the whole faulty SaaS model), when edge
clients like the iPhone or PCs could do it too.
I would like my laptop or my phone to handle my information, so that I
can volunteer or pull information between friends and family.
Currently my options seem to be "talk about it, or upload it to large
corporations using me for selling adverts".
To summarise, a free version of these large virtual worlds, with a
different architecture to handle local people doing it for themselves
rather than large data centres in Alaska.
steve at adam.com.au
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