The Internet is starting to focus on location in combination with feeling, and you can now often know not only where someone is, but how they are feeling. For instance, I can get on the Internet and tell the USGS where I was on Friday morning at 4:42am and exactly how much of the 4.2 earthquake I felt.
I can also watch as people wander around the city, talking about what they see and how they feel. This phenomenon is called bio mapping. Says Brady Forrest on the O’Reilly Radar, “The Bio Mapping project sponsors people to walk around an area with a GPS and a Galvanic Skin Response sensor and logger. The emotional responses of the participants are then mapped.” Just about the closest you get to my house in San Francisco (PDF), you see a “pretty active area with lots of bars.”
Though not always mapped to precise physical location (but often so), on a recent roadtrip, I was able to Twitter about exactly where I was and what I was doing – as if the GPS in the car were not enough to track my whereabouts at all times. The most poignant lingering memory this represents for me is that that vacation is over. (Fear not – another begins next week!). You can even Twitter about earthquakes – though the chatter was decidedly light for Friday’s event. And if Twitter’s interface doesn’t cut it (and it doesn’t, to me), I can always go Jaiku.
On http://www.wefeelfine.org, I can get an interesting feel for what people feel and where they feel it. Someone in Leipzig, for example, apparently feels detached. Someone in Florida feels sandy. I love to click around the happy dots and squares on this site.
One of the coolest recent things I saw along the lines of collective location was a demo of Microsoft Photosynth (link courtesy, as many cool things are, of Michael Biermann at SAP). Towards the middle of this video, you can see a demo of what happens when you take the whole community of geo-informed photos of Notre Dame and patch them together. An awesome moment. Says the demoer:
We can do things with this social environment, taking data from the entire collective memory visually of what the earth looks like, and link all of that together and make something emergent that’s greater than the sum of the parts.
“A ‘long tail’ model of the entire Earth,” they say.
I tend to stay awake after earthquakes. It’s a throw-back to being in the middle of the large earthquake in 1989. I tend to go back in my mind and remember where I was then. But the Internet was not such a self-emotive, geo-located community of shared feeling back then, so I have no collectively preserved archive as such. What I did find was this. Two blocks from where I was then:
Female dispatcher: Can I ask you something?
Female Dispatcher: Did you have something going to Sixth and, what is it, Townsend?
CEH: Sixth and Townsend?
Female Dispatcher: We ordered it a little while ago. Just wondering if you had one.
CEH: I don’t see Sixth and Townsend.
Female Dispatcher: Okay, hold on. (keying police radio transmitter) Unit requesting Sixth and Townsend 408? an ambulance. Boy 103, did you have a Sixth and Townsend request?
Boy 103: 10-4. That’s best way to get in there is Sixth and Townsend, and the Fire Department and police will direct them to where the injured parties are… (Boy 103 is then covered by an unidentified officer who says) They had requested two ambulances.
Female Dispatcher: What’s the level of injury, because they have their lists of priorities up here too. They’re going crazy.
Unidentified Police Unit: It’s going crazy out here.
Female Dispatcher: Yea, what kind of injury? (no answer in few second so she says to CEH dispatcher on phone) Okay, well, Sixth and Townsend, you know, put it on there definitely. They had requested two ambulances.
Female Dispatcher: Okay, so, I don’t know. Try…try middle priority.
CEH: Sixth and Townsend, Code 2. All right.
I walked right by the incident to which they refer. It was super scary.
The Internet at its best could really be able to help our communities during times of disaster. While I don’t look forward to those, I look forward to that community, hopefully, being there for us – wherever we are and however we feel.