Taking the cyber out of cyberspace

The “semantic web” is supposed to be the next big thing for Tim Berners-Lee’s little invention, but I think geospatial links will be a hit much sooner. “Geospatial link” is a fancy name for hanging URLs in mid-air. If your web browser knows where it is (in the purely spatial sense of latitude and longitude), it will be able to ask if any web documents have been posted at those coordinates. As the author of a web page, rather than putting it somewhere in cyberspace, say http://www.starchamber.com, you can elect to put it somewhere in real space. Similarly, you can look for documents in space near your real (or imagined) physical location. Imagine spying a virtual sign outside a restaurant emblazoned with the warning: “Lice-ridden wait staff. Chef has dripping carbuncle on nose.”

Steven Johnson has written an interesting piece on this topic for Discover called Pssst! This Note’s for You. The blog world is going nutty over physical coordinates, too. Go to geourl.org to find the coordinates of thousands of blogs. Who cares? It doesn’t seem to have any practical value yet, but then again it does seem to address an important psychological need. Where are you? It’s nice to know.

2 thoughts on “Taking the cyber out of cyberspace”

  1. Last night, I was watching an ancient John Garfield movie. Ginger Rodgers goes to light his cigarette – with a match – and says, “Since the invention of the cigarette lighter, match use has gone up 4,000 percent.” Which reminded me of the stats on paper use going way way up as workplaces introduced email. Which is, I swear, germane, to the original post. Wasn’t one of the points of cyberwonderfulness that anyone, anywhere, could be friends with anyone, anywhere? But, of course, as you point out, that’s not really what anyone wants. As you note, we’re built to ask “who goes there” “who are you and what do you want” and “which side of the tracks are you from” as a set of questions.

  2. We go hunting for scarcity where we can find it. Information is boundless, but real estate is not, so we talk about real estate. If you read everything you can about a distant place like Tasmania, it inflames rather than diminishes your desire to go there. The more describable and circumscribed the world becomes, the more its ineffableness appeals. The flood of web words does not erode but sharpens the landscape.

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