August 30, 2006 20:18 | WebTech

Geotagging citizen media

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To keep my mind occupied the last day or so, I have been thinking alot about how Flickr's new Map functionality might affect the whole "citizen journalism" scene.

Alot of people around me have been talking geo for years, and always with that pure geeky "but it would be sooo cool" angle. "Yeah it would," I'd think, "can't wait to see it." With Google Maps and the ensuing "mashup craze", it really was just a matter of time. And of course Flickr Maps is just one more step forward. It's just another beginning. It'll be a BIG beginning though.

Over at GlobalVoices, I am quietly simmering on redesign plans and I am putting alot of attention on "how can we create more better [sic] context for people who come to the site? How can we add to the experience using all the tools we now have at our disposal?" Maps of course figure VERY prominently. Basic ideas like "show the country who's page you are on now on a map."

"How about, on that map, we pinpoint places mentioned in the article?"

Flickr Maps might allow us now to say "show us pictures taken around the places mentioned in this post."

This really is just a start. Now that Flickr has done it, all the other media sharing sites are gonna scramble to figure something similar out. And they don't need to be under Google or Yahoo's wing to do it either. That's why APIs are great.


Agreed. Geo API are definitely cool, they help to empower many things, raising more awareness by contextualization. That is a big step forward to understand things.

As you know, I have always a tendency to balance things then… ;) [btw, I'm not technophobist, I'm technocritic].

Giving more contextualization is working two ways. For example, you can say these scenes of tortures are happening at this place right now. Or these people are trying to escape in this region, and this and that are difficulties. For the sake of simplication, let's say that this information is interesting for some people who want to act "positively", but also interesting for some people who want to use it in a "negative" way.

My concerns are not about the fact that the information is available, but about the humans who might suffer because of the avaibility of this information. It's very tricky. The power of aggregation and the cleaning of a certain opacity makes life of some people and their geo-social context very fragile. Not all people can resist to the same things.

"Mr X., Freedom activist, has been found by the police of Country Z because of Flickr Maps."

So yes again, very cool to access data, but always when we develop something, let's try to think about the consequences on individuals.


PS: I love APIs ;) is it clear? :p

I've been visiting Gobal voices failry regularly and I must admit that my primary interest in it is that it is so often discussed on this blog. Unfortunately I have been a bit dissapointed, I spend time puttering around and I just don't get it. I'm not sure exactly how it works or what I can use it for.

As a law student and a communications student it appears to be a fantastic resource. But whenever I visit I seems to run into the problem of, "how should I use this', which I see as a failing on my part ie missing the big picture.

I know this comment isn't directly related to the post, it's just that the post got me thinking about these things.

Yep. You are not alone in thinking these things. In fact Ethan, one of the founders of GlobalVoices, spends a considerable amount fo his time, if not most of it, and energy on precisely this need of educating "activist users" on such things as anonymity, security, etc. Activites such as workshops all over the world, guidebooks like RSF's "Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents" are part of this. Of course much more must be done.

Do you think the president who pushes the nuclear button sees 1/1000'th of a percent of the issues that Oppenheimer saw? Sadly, *someone* will always get hurt. :\

Actually thank you very much for your comment. This is precisely one of the reasons we badly need to do a redesign: the site doesn't make it's purpose, usefulness and useability clear on first sight. And that is very bad. The current design was done when the site was still more orless just a weblog, but now it is much much more and the way it is built no longer reflects it's true nature.

thnx gents. :)