Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Locative Media 2.0

Jump2Spot finished a year-long project that took 12-18 hours daily  mapping biographies of notable people in history.

This tops up locations for movie scenes, photos of the day, music history, art, literature, history, and innovation. Some of the world's largest atlases have been built for these topics.

Some unexpected results emerged with biographies mapped.

The idea originally was to show where you are crossing paths with someone who made history.  

Among locations mapped were birthplaces, schools and roots of people when they were unknown.  A surprising number of  "Closet Canadians" have shaped American pop culture. Hollywood, for example, had Warner Bros Jack Warner (born in London, Ont.), Disney patriarch Elias (born Bluevale, Ont) and MGM founders Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B Mayer (who lived in the Martimes of Canada). Actors like Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc have roots in Canada. It is arguable that American pop culture is half-defined by ex-pat Canadian culture. 

Another pattern showed astrological connections. Alt-country singers Gram Parsons and Ryan Adams share the same birthday. So does Bryan Adams.  Woody Allen, Sarah Silverman and Richard Pryor share the same birthday. Astrological clusters of people in the same field were frequent. You could almost make a new horoscope app connecting biographical stories on birthdays. 

Locative media shows where a person is mentioned for making a difference - usually in art or innovation. Of 100 billion people who lived on the planet, less than 50,000 people had a media impact in history. The status quo is indeed a powerful force.

Mapping biographies also illustrated how a course of history was changed. 

The key editorial barometer for locative media has been: does this story make an interesting ghost to share?

Stories that are powerful in visual narrative had the greatest connection with viewers. The lens of seeing ghosts then in the context of what is now proved quite interesting. Evolution is mapped.

One of the bigger challenges for locative media has been the mapping platforms so far available for viewing. They do not account for easily viewing one location with 100s or even 1000s of stories. They are designed geo-spatially for one story per spot. Additionally, it is hard to see what makes a story interesting at a spot with just a pin or bubble on a map.  There are also invisible pins for neighborhoods with a high density of stories that you can't see until you zoom in.  A map with pins doesn't offer a great user experience. This shows a post you've already seen above, but you can't immediately tell. The other pins have invisible stories until you click. The other stories have invisible pins until you zoom in.

I forsee maps being invisible in geo-spatial navigation to accommodate many stories.  A streetview made for narratives is possible. Triggers defining recommended and featured content for a user's path or contextual activity will be key. Filters by topic can help categorize stories for a user's taste.  Points on a map will need to be easier to "jump" to. Scrolling a map and even downloading a map takes up too much time and real estate with non-functional activities.

In social media channels, there's been a strong interest from users who want to add facts, location IDs and related stories or photos in a thread for one post like this Robert Frank film for the Rolling Stones in 1972.

To date, mapping platforms don't allow for threads for one pin/post. You can only make a separate post (no thread) to add a fact. The problem is only 1 post is visible per  spot  on a map at top-level viewing, when you could have 100s of movie scenes at one  location (e.g. Central Park).  

One sees a different user experience after geo-tagging 1.36 million assets. Scalability and new dimensions are needed for geo-spatial design.  It is also key  to avoid offering only stagnant (already viewed) stories nearby and dynamically change stories contextual to a user's interest. GPS experiments early on in mobile applications showed the same old stories near one's home/work instead of refreshing new stories.

William Gibson's vision for locative media in Spook Country saw geo-spatial projections related to a user's desired path. It offered a focused experience. That's what geo-spatial design needs. 

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