Home Articles EditorSpeak: Location is what you make of it

EditorSpeak: Location is what you make of it

Prof. Arup Dasgupta
Managing Editor
[email protected]

A link on Facebook from the IEEE Communications Society asks, “Is the Web what you make of it?” about a Google Chrome commercial which features a music video by Lady Gaga. This little cameo sums up the status of the information society today. It is personal and the boundaries between social and professional elements and interactions are blurred. The geospatial world is treading the same path.

Our lead article on location illustrates how technology is going all out to provide the individual with the best navigation service. This not only involves moving from point A to point B in geographical space but also within a geographical object like a mall. Ola Rollen, in our lead interview, emphasises the importance of 3D for precisely the same reason – the need for better navigation in three dimensions which includes buildings. It is not just about malls. It is also about finding your way out in an emergency like a fire or a terrorist attack.

Along with better navigation also comes the danger of loss of privacy. As a chilling expose of loss of privacy, we have the recent news that iPhone users’ positional data was inadvertently stored in the device and is accessible to Apple, as Rollen points out, social networking sites like Facebook are ending up owning our private information for free as users pour in their likes and dislikes and other personal information including location. It is amazing to know that 51 percent of LBS users are on Foursquare as users find it useful to tell their family where they are and to find friends in their immediate vicinity. Apparently the need to announce one’s location scores over the need for privacy. The nearness of a friend is a reassurance given the uncertainty of the world we live in.

Whatever the reason, the convergence of social networks and the personalisation of location information has given rise to a unique form of social decision making which is actually reducing the absolute power of the politicians, according to Rollen. Individuals form social groups and are able to influence decisions including spatial planning decisions. One of the major applications of such activism is in the field of disaster management where individuals on the spot can give a much better assessment of the ground reality than any amount of imagery and spatial models.

Fraser Taylor sums it up succinctly in his ‘First Person’ feature where he says, “Location-based analysis and description, location-based organisational data, analysis of data and presentation of data are absolutely vital to understanding many problems at all scales, from global to local. There is a real contribution to be made by people who understand the power of location data within the ICT framework.” Therefore, location is what you make of it.