Location is What You Make of It

This weekend, I was sending out a Jaiku message (or updating my presence, depending on how you think of it) during a brief lull at the playground with my kids. There I was, in the middle of Highgate Wood in north London, and I realized something: Jaiku knew where I was. In fact, it had k known where I was all day as I went from East Finchley to Muswell Hill, then back to East Finchley and then to Highgate Wood. As I had briefly updated my presence in each location, it had attached my location information. Big deal, you might say, so what? Yes, but it’s the kind of location that Jaiku was tracking that started to intrigue me. Locaiton to Jaiku is not a GPS coordinate but is tracked entirely by Cell ID. If I travel somewhere new and set my location (as I did in “Vodafone HQ” today, for example) it remembers this, not by X, Y coordinate but simply by the text that I’ve entered. This way of thinking about location actually maps much more accurately on to the way that real people think about location. When you tell your friend where to meet you for a drink after work, you don’t say “meet me at lat xxx, long xxx plus/minus 30 meters.” You say “meet me at such-and-such pub.” In fact, this kind of casual location is most suited towards social applications like Jaiku. Different social groups might call the same location by different names. This is bcause location is a social construct. Sure, you can measure location against strict x,y coordinates and for some applications this is fine, not for applications like Jaiku. Even GPS direction finding applications need to map x,y coordinates into a human-consumable form of street names and landmarks (“turn left at the next intersection.”) So for apps like Jaiku and Plazes (and social media sharing such as Zonetag), cell-id based location is actually ideal. It doesn’t require additional battery, it maps very closely onto the granularity that people care about in this sort of social app, and it’s free.

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3 comments on “Location is What You Make of It
  1. Kai Hendry says:

    “A space isn’t a place without people” I remember hearing from someone somewhere.

    I’ve use Jaiku myself and I find it’s not quite as granular as I would like.

    Another thought, I wish Jaiku could share their landmarks?

  2. Giles Payne says:

    Hey Dan – I have no idea what Jaiku is but what you’re talking about echoes very
    closely with the work done in IETF at http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc4589 Location Types Registry

  3. Kai – yes, I agree. Popping up a number of possible locations based on what others have selected would be a good feature. I believe the location to cell-id matching is happening on the device itself though.

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