Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mapping where the pulse is

We started with the question: How do we make a geo-tag more interesting?

The direction we took was geo-tagging  "iconic moments."

I had already collected notable stories out of personal interest, including some from walking circles over  8 years along Jones, W 4th St, Cornelia and Bleecker in Greenwich Village.

We soon discovered the so-called "chicken pox" look and pin poking was not an efficient way to browse stories at locations. The top-level conveyed no meaningful info. The visualization had the same old look for every address search. A familiar map. And it was hard to tell which pin to poke.

We needed a new geo-spatial media browser for frequent, speedy, exploration.  And in this world, people don't just want speed, they also want an exciting visual and sensual experience.

We needed different ways of visualizing a place beyond a map and stock streetviews.

Cafe Terrace (9-11 Place du Forum, Arles, France
Photo of the Day & 1888 Van Gogh painting 

Stitching interesting visuals at a location became paramount.

Chemin Des Segonnaux (Arles)
Photo of the Day & 1888 Starry Starry Night by Van Gogh 

In this world, it is also no longer just about looking good. It also has to be interesting. Compelling narratives for a location became paramount.

While living at 2727 Benedict (LA), MGM star Hedy Lamarr  invented wi-fi, bluetooth, and cellular frequency hopping with neighbor George Antheil's piano roll. Her invention was first used by JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

Hedy Lamarr was also the face of Corel Draw 
and later sold  49% of her wireless patent in Ottawa 
to Wi-Lan Inc (1 Holland Ave)   

At 18, in Ecstasy (1933), Hedy Lamarr became the 1st studio star appearing on screen in an orgasm. It was filmed in Prague.  Reportedly a pin was used to achieve the expressions.

Combining intriguing visuals with location identifications drove "like" notifications in stories shared in social media.

And let's face it. Today it isn't just about looking good and being interesting anymore. It has to be about your viewer. There needs to be a personal connection.

Al Pacino directed his 1st feature film Chinese Coffee (2000)
 at our music hangout Caffe Vivaldi (32 Jones, NY) 

Notifications for stories shared in social media were mostly driven by adding personal facts and interesting related personal images to a story.  The most popular posts we saw  had an interesting visual, a unique story AND a personal connection. A post becomes most popular when a users have previously crossed paths with a place or a similar story. I call this the "crossing paths" trigger.

* *  *
For depth, we went down a path we didn't even believe was possible, geo-tagging 1.4 million notable items into stories.

Categories started to emerge: 1) Movies 2) Music 3) Photos of the Day 4) Art and Literature 5) Histories and Biographies 6) Inventions.

  Serpico starring Al Pacino at 150 S 8th St (Brooklyn) 

Additionally, I had curated more than 50,000 photos daily over a decade, from around the world, out of personal interest.

As time progressed, though unintentional, these geo-spatial story databases yielded the world's largest literature atlas and music history atlas, the internet's photos of the day,  and almost every notable movie scene geo-tagged.

311 10th Ave NY - Blondie by Roberta Bayley 

Photos of the Day were later expanded into geo-tagged portfolios of iconic photographers from Brassaii, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and Berenice Abbott to Vivian Maier, Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz.

Vivian Maier 1953 self-portrait on Broadway 
between 86th and 87th Streets. 
Location found by geo-sleuth on Facebook.

Archives suddenly had a new kind of search engine - by place.

It took on an increasingly important mission of its own:  a movement to map the entire history of art and invention. In many incidences, we became the first to document "where" something important took place. Other photos, stories and clues became important scraps to help identify locations. Meaningless photos and Grade B movie scenes suddenly had greater meaning offering geographical artifacts to help identify locations in the past.  Suddenly the only map of JD Salinger's entire life was available. The first map of Stanley Kubrick's first film was also created. Geo-tagging suddenly took on special historical significance.

Where JD Salinger last lived 
(GPS  43.511931, -72.346789)

New history was discovered from mapping iconic moments.

We saw a high density of  "closet Canadians" shaping American culture. The exiled Canadian expat seemed highly motivated to shape American history. Half of the Hollywood studios were founded by people who had lived in Canada.

Angelina Jolie with dad Jon Voight. 
Her maternal grandpa was Canadian. 
Dorothy Chandler Pavillion (1986 Oscars) 

While in social media, every post had a feeling of disappearing soon, we found in locative media that posts are more valuable because they re-appear to tell a story about a place whenever you cross paths with it. Social media (a collection of evaporating snippets)  is disposable, locative media is collectible.

This became a place to study places. And in turn, study people who make history  and how important things happened. These were stories that put people on the map.

* * *

We also discovered a user with GPS was prone to seeing the same stories over and over while regularly travelling along an habitual path. Pro-active place searches were slightly better for exploration, but one's thoughts of places to search start to diminish with time.

We needed a persistent method for regular exploration.

We settled on a birthday algorithm to feature places of notable profiles for daily birthdays. This allowed for spontaneous exploration and visualization, throwing back to nostalgic stories on birthdays. It even created an  interesting horoscope of the day. Common stories were found among people born on the same day as if there was an astrological connection.

Alt country singer Gram Parson (born Nov 5, 1946) seen with Keith Richards 1971 at Villa Nellecote (6 Ave Louise Bordes, Villefranche-sur-Mer, France) where Rolling Stones recorded Exile on Main Street

Alt country singer Ryan Adams (also born Nov 5, 1974) 
seen at Massey Hall (Toronto) Nov 12, 2014  by Dave Borins. 

Singer Bryan Adams (also born Nov 5, 1959)  opened Live Aid 
at JFK Stadium (Philadelphia)  July 13, 1985. 

From these astrological, geographical stories, viewers could connect with other stories of the day with a mutual geo-tag or profile tag.

* * *

Story recommendations matched with user activities became another spontaneous trigger point for exploration. Whenever a user posted or viewed a photo, we could recommend another photo and story contextual to that post with historic significance.

There are 25 billion+ geo-tags out there and we had already pinned stories at the world's most popular geo-tags which proportionately cover most of the geo-tagging done daily.

* * *

We also needed a way to rank stories as some places had 1000 stories. I imagined the new Mayor of a place being a person who posted the highest ranked story/photo.

We see geo-indexing as the next big thing for Art.  Instead of profile check-ins, it's Art check-ins. You can then see art on demand, on location (ranked)...a photo, a movie scene, a song, a story, a blog..."locative art"...anytime you visit/search a place.