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The GeoSpatial Web

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This past week both the BBC and NPR had radio programs on the expanding role of geographic data in the world. Thanks to the beauty of the Internet, I was able to listen to both. NPR’s OnPoint program was entitled “The New Sense of the Web” and discussed the coming geospatial web where the boundaries between the physical and the digital worlds would be blurred. One of the guests on the program was Mike Liebhold who has recently posted a longer discussion of the geospatial web over at the O’Reilly Network.

“The geospatial web,“ says Liebhold in the program, “is a combination of digital map data, combined with web-like hyper media – web pages, video, audio objects, graphic objects that are tagged with location coordinates in addition to a url.” The blurring of the digital and the physical worlds comes with devices that can detect location and connect to the Internet, such as cellphones. Liedhold goes on to say: “As you move through the world, if your deivce knows where it is, if it is location sensitive, it can retrieve information about the area, the place and the objects around you.” Any object or place or even person can be tagged with information. That information can be as simple as someone relating a story about a place - sort of a world-wide accessible electronic travel guide.

The BBC’s ShopTalk radio program - available until Tuesday, January 10 - looked at what changes are currently taking place with geospatial data: the democratization of data, the uses of GPS tracking, and so on.

Both programs are worth listening to and thought provoking. As one caller in the NPR program commented, there may eventually be an overabundance of information tagged to any number of objects or places: “do we want all this data yammering at us ?” Cartographers have traditionally weeded out information that distracts from the purpose of the map so as to make the map more understandable. The democratization of data collection and map making will only serve to reinforce our role in making the information that is out there understandable and useful.

1 Responses to “The GeoSpatial Web”

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