VirtuKnowHow: Geotags and Phicons

Entertainment and information organization are great uses of technology. The past VirtuKnowHow articles covered a variety of these options. But discussing these in this format is a bit deceptive about the power and potential of virtual integration. Increasingly, technology is making its way further and further into the inner workings of our lives. It won’t be long that even the most basic bits (or should I say bytes?) of knowledge will not only help us to understand the vast reaches of the Web Universe, but they may well tag our whereabouts and allow us to be transported from place to place with the touch of a screen.

GEOTAGS: Finding our place in this great virtual universe is already becoming quite a chore, but geotagging is beginning to help. Wikipedia has already recognized this phenomenon, offering this rather precise definition:

“GeoTagging, sometimes referred to as Geocoding is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to various media such as websites, RSS feeds or images. This data usually consists of latitude and longitude coordinate, though it can also include altitude and placenames. Geocoding also refers to the process of taking non-coordinate based geographical identifiers, such as a postal address, and converting them into geographical coordinates.”

In a recent review of how advocacy groups are using geotagging it was noted that some are connecting this meta IDing to everything from the pictures of people who attend specific events to the email, blog and other networks that keep like-minded folks communicating.

Once we find our place, however, it is only natural that we (and others) may want to move us around as well to engage a better fit or keep track of our location or purpose or role or activities. That capability is emerging in the form of Phicons.

PHICONS: These are physical icons. Or, from a user perspective, they are highly mobile ways of moving vital functions (and the megadata attached therein) from one electronic system to another. Imagine, for example, if you were to touch the Word icon on your desktop with your finger and then walk over to your wireless television set. With fully functioning phicons you would be able to click on the Word icon on the TV and access your files and writing abilities through your TV directly into your computer.

The original intention of phicons was to allow urban planners and other types to digitalize the various elements of their maps and drawings, and then to be able to move them around. The computer would then take on the responsibility of “re-wiring” the schematic to adjust to these changes. Imagine what it would be like if architectural drawings could easily redraw themselves to adjust wiring, plumbing, electrical and other changes?

But there are many other implications too-including keeping track of those whose geographical location we know down to the precise longitude, latitude or altitude.

We are moving rapidly into a world in which the spying machinery is built into every object we encounter,” wrote Howard Rheingold in his 2002 Smart Mobs: Transforming Cultures and Communities in the Age of Instant Access. “Although we leave digital traces of our personal lives with our credit cards and Web browsers today, tomorrow’s mobile devices will broadcast clouds of personal data to invisible monitors all around us as we move from place to place.”

And the social side effects, he speculates, are only beginning to follow us around.

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