GIS at UCLA: Blog

The UCLA Spatial Blog

May 15, 2008 - Posted by yohman

Where 2.0 Conference: Day 3

Day 3 begins with Rio enjoying the early morning sun rays.

After an exhausting 25 sessions followed by the WhereFair, I'm ready to relax and take it easy today. This year, the conference is held in Burlingame, California in the Marriott Hotel. It is right in front of a marshland facing the runway of the San Francisco airport, and so, when you decide to step outside, you hear the constant deafening roar of the airplanes. Aside from the noise, it is a beautiful and peaceful location.

Going back inside, the day begins pretty much where it ended yesterday. Day 3 features another monster marathon of an additional 22 sessions. By the time lunch rolls along, I think that even I, a self-proclaimed Geo-Geek, feels like my geo-quota has reached its limit. I mean, how much geo-talk can you take? 40+ sessions in 2 days?? This quantity over quality approach has pretty much numbed many of the particpants, and the crowd has slowly dwindled as the day progresses. Nevertheless, there are a few highlights of the day. Lior Ron, from Google Map's team, announces a brand new feature on Google Maps: the "more" button, which adds Wikepedia material as well as photo's on the map.

Another presenter that caught my interest was Erik Hersman, a self-proclaimed activist who has built a site called Ushahidi that tracks activities happening on the ground in troubled states (in his example, it was Kenya's unrest following the recent election). What piqued my interest was the Ushahidi incorporated a Simile timeline that synced nicely with a Google Map. Simple and effective way to mash time and space elements.

So, after sitting through 40 geo-spatial sessions, I am more than ready to geo-locate myself as far as possible from here. There is just so much "where" that one can take. Oh, but I sure can't do it without grabbing some of the snacks...

At the end of the 3 days, I am struck by a nagging thought about all these geo-spatial technologies and direction this field is heading into. Granted, many, if not most, of the presenters were small start-up companies trying to vie for a spot in the saturated geo-industry, and at times it felt more like an audition session for venture capital. Kind of like a Geo-Spatial Idol. A large majority of the content appeared to revolve around the notion that "we want to know where YOU are", because with that information, innovators can invent all sorts of information networks: you can know where you are, you can find out where your friends are, you can find out what the inside of a restaurant looks like without going there, you can have a machine tell you what is around you without even looking. After some time, I am thinking, what are we doing with ourselves? Are we drone-atizing our existense? Are we all really willing to so easily give away our geo-location to others? Is this really where geo-spatial technologies should be heading?

At the airport, on my way home from the conference, I ran into a friend and fellow participant, Bruce Raup from Boulder, Colorado. He summed the entire conference for me. "They are solving problems I don't have".

I for one, would like to keep on geo-tagging, all the while making sure that I don't get geo-tagged.