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<nettime> cisler meeting report -- new geography: strategies for deep pl
t byfield on Sat, 16 Oct 2004 14:55:03 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> cisler meeting report -- new geography: strategies for deep place

      [forwarded to nettime at steve cisler's request -- cheers, t

    Meeting Report
    October 6-7, 2004
    New Geography: strategies for deep place
    Institute for the Future (iftf.org)
    By Steve Cisler


    The host organization is a research group that has been in Silicon
    Valley for more than 35 years. It was founded by a group of RAND
    researchers with money from the Ford foundation. Corporate and
    government agencies subscribe to their  services  which include
    forecasting based on emerging trends and technologies and access to a
    variety of practitioners, writers, and academics. They provide
    reports, a private web site, and exchanges such as the one I attended
    in San Francisco on October 6 and 7.

    The Technology Horizons aims at forecasting what happens at the
    intersection of biotech, information technology, material science, and
    energy. These fields not only reflect where the disruptive changes
    occur but also the consequences for their client base, each of whom
    pays $65,000 for membership . At this meeting there were people from
    GM, IBM, U.S. Army, DARPA, Proctor & Gamble, Swisscom, HP Labs,
    Samsung, Herman Miller, State Farm Insurance, Time Warner, McDonalds,
    NASA, Sun, Vodafone, UPS, BP, and Intel. Though heavily weighted
    toward large corporations and institutions, there were also coders and
    hackers and designers doing interesting projects in the realm of what
    IFTF calls the geoweb. It brought together peop le who might not meet
    each other...but should. I will describe some of their presentations
    in this report.

    Much of the program was suggested by Mike Liebhold, an IFTF affiliate
    who was able to get me an invitation.  I was one of two attendees out
    of about one hundred who had no title and no affiliation. Nor did I
    have a business card. It was a special event for me--what I call a Rip
    van Winkle* experience. I had been disconnected from the Internet for
    eight months (Feb-Sept 2004) visiting people and groups not using the
    Net in the U.S and Mexico. Except for what I read in seminal news
    sources like The Onion (print edition), newspapers and magazines at
    the public library much of the online news passed me by for most of
    2004.  This was an imme rsion in a kind of interchange and
    presentations I had not experienced since 2003 at the Next Five
    Minutes conference in Amsterdam.


    A good part of what is now San Francisco was claimed as a  military
    base more than two hundred years ago. Recently the Presidio reverted
    to use by civic, cultural, and nonprofit organizations which are
    housed in the many military buildings around the park-like setting at
    the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Archive.org and SFLAN a
    community wireless project are located here. IFTF chose the Golden
    Gate Club for our meeting, and besides having a million dollar view of
    the S.F. Bay, it  has something few large cities have: ample free
    parking. We met in a room where the original United Nations took place
    in 1945.  Nearby at Fort Scott we took part in a geo-coding exercise.

    The opening panel featured Dave Rumsey of Cartography Associates. He
    has a fine arts degree and taught at Yale Art School and then went
    into real estate and was associated with General Atlantic. With the
    wealth he amassed he began collecting maps, and his lecture was about
    his online map collection of 10,000+ digitized maps at
    www.davidrumsey.com.  He has a total collection of 150,000! Using the
    Presidio--our meeting place-- as an example he showed digital overlays
    of historical maps of the area and how the new tools provide new ways
    of visualizing valuable and delicate historic documents.

    The other panelists included Stewart Brand, founder of the Long Now
    Foundation as well a board member Kevin Kelly and Zander Rose,
    Director.  This foundation is focused on the very long term issues,
    and they are designing a clock to be housed in a mountain in the
    Nevada desert. They hope the clock will last ten thousand years.  They
    have a project called Rosetta stone where they have inscribed on a
    nickel plate some common text in 1600 written languages. They searched
    for  something that had been translated widely. The Soviet Union had
    some writings of Lenin, the U.N. Human Rights declaration was another
    candidate, and the text finally chosen was part of the book of
    Genesis. The Summer Institute of Linguistics in Dallas, Texas, has
    translated the Bible into many previously unwritten languages, and
    they made a deal with the foundation. Rose said they put the
    information up on the web at first and found that linguists and others
    came to the site to correct them (some of the text was upside down!)
    and without much intervention the collection was changed for the
    better. Kevin Kelly noted that his interest was what happens when you
    embed the digital economy in the physical realm.

    The format of the IFTF exchanges includes one-way lectures with some
    Q&A, moderated by a staff member who knows some of the background
    about audience members and calls on them for comment and input. At the
    same time graphic artists are summarizing some of the issues and
    points of information on large murals. These are a mix of text,
    arrows, images and have provided me a way of remembering what was
    discussed. If you were not present it serves as something like a
    free-form PowerPoint slide show.  This sort of mapping has been a
    mainstay of IFTF for many years, and this use of the word mapping is
    quite different from cartographic mapping which was at the core of
    this meeting.


    John Carnes has a company called Map Tools in Woodside, California. He
    worked against a deadline to come up with a web-based program that
    integrated descriptive information on places that had been geo-coded
    with a small eTrex handheld GPS device. Besides the program he had to
    work out device drivers that worked with both laptops and HP tablets.
    Working with Mike Liebhold and others as we arrived, they had the toys
    ready for us to try. Ten groups, shepherded by IFTF staff, were taken
    to Fort Scott a couple of miles from the meeting site. In the week
    leading up to the meeting, the staff, working with park historians,
    input hundreds of nuggets of geo-coded information. Our groups roamed
    the grounds, watching the text and imag es appear, and we had the
    option of adding our own items.  In a perfect world the information
    would be on central servers, but without 802.11 (Wi-Fi) access the
    points were on the portable tablets and laptops. At first, the GPS
    device could not find enough of the satellites to give a reading.
    Star-crossed lovers of technology! Once it began to triangulate and
    give readings, the bright sun made the screens hard to read. I had the
    idea that until screen contrast improved, we would map shadow worlds
    with greater richness than the bright ones. What might have been a
    little unwieldy for a single user was no problem for a team. In fact,
    just having the exercise of strolling around together exposed us to
    the place, the new technology, and to each other.  One participant,
    William Cockayne, knew a great deal about the area, the architecture,
    and the histor y and filled us in orally while we experimented with
    the electronic system.  While a tightly integrated dedicated device
    with a rich source of data could be accessed by a lone user, the
    social aspects of sharing and cooperation, even for a short exercise,
    were very positive.

    Some of the geo-coded items were personal: someone looking for a
    running partner, and there were ads which prompted discussion about
    geoSpam as something that could ruin the experience. On the display of
    the site map, each item was a small circle. Could a secure method
    assure that spam (or sponsored ads) would be a different color? Could
    advertisers buy larger circles that would be easier to see, perhaps
    one as large as the area mapped? Or will there be prohibitions just as
    there are for billboards on some highways and in national parks?

    Many of the items were historic notes; some were environmental (I
    added a note about all the ground squirrel holes in the field), and
    someone had input elements of a fantasy adventure game. Others had put
    in very personal notes about a boy friend (better than carving
    initials on a tree) and the one that attracted the most attention was
    the item about Jerry Garcia learning to play guitar while stationed in
    the Army in one of the barracks.  Each group was supposed to come up
    with a development plan for this old fort, and these plans were shared
    after dinner. My ankle was hurting from an old sprain and I sat out
    that part of the exercise on the bus.

    Day Two

    I overheard one participant saying, IFTF uses the delphi techniques
    with experts, but predictive markets are big. We are using large
    bodies of average folks to look at trends.


    The keynote for the morning was Mike Liebhold talking about the
    Ecology of the New Geography which was a survey of the technology and
    projects, some of which was included in a background paper all the
    participants received a few weeks earlier. I noted five out of one
    hundred taking notes on laptops. The rest used paper or just listened.
    One fellow constantly used a new model of Sidekick from Danger. This
    is a cell phone with small color  screen, camera, and QWERTY keyboard.
    Throughout the conference we was carrying on IM sessions, even as he
    conversed with those present.

    Liebhold said he had been thinking about geo-spatial issues and
    technology since the 70s He cited Stewart Brands Whole Earth Catalog
    and the spatial data management system funded by DARPA. The famous
    product of this project was the Aspen movie map. One of those
    involved, Michael Naimark (USC film schools Interactive Media
    Division), was present in the room.  At Apple Liebhold worked on a
    program called Terraform, collaborating with NASA and ESRI. ESRI is
    the dominant commercial force in commercial GIS with more than 100,000
    installations.  What Liebhold envisions is a rich and seamless
    integration of all sorts of place-based web information with digital
    cartography. In the future  most products might have descriptive
    labels much as some food already carries.  a chair with an FAQ. Maps
    of electrical conduits, gas lines, and telecomms infrastructure in an
    office building. There will be context-aware computing where the
    device knows your intentions and calendar and matches the
    environmental attributes to your interests.

    The devices will have to change and will include single use and
    multi-use. Samples of Frog Design eyeglasses with a telephone built in
    and visual overlays were shown.

    On most participants minds were the issues of security vs. privacy,
    and this makes decisions about the best kind of geo-location
    techniques very important. There are now location sensing networks
    like E911. That means the network is tracking you, and many find that
    objectionable. Intels PlaceLab  is working on an open source
    application that triangulates known radio sources. They have a
    database of wardriving wi-fi stations that could be used. Our field
    exercise made use of the U.S. GPS satellites. In the future the
    European Union will have its own system.

    Liebhold stressed that most of the geocoded data is not integrated or
    aligned. There are many ways of describing latitude, longitude, and
    elevation, many data formats, and metadata standards. Each sector is
    doing a markup language resulting not in an Esperanto but TMML, too
    many markup languages.  Even the Java implementations are not the
    same, so changes have to be made for different machines.

    He surveyed the geoweb software industry and the large companies
    interested (Palm Sybian, MapInfo, Autodesk, Integraph, IBM, MS,
    Oracle, and Sun plus some smaller ones like Webraska Mappoint and
    Brew).  And there are Linux projects of all sorts.

    Some of the policy issues to deal with: location privacy, protecting
    sensitive data. Not just in the face of the increased influence of the
    Dept. of Homeland Security.  California State University Sonoma has a
    database of secret maps about archaeological sites around the state.
    Most countries do not have a large base of free cartographic
    information as does the U.S. and Denmark. This will inhibit
    development, especially for  small scale experiments.  The costs in
    the UK are so high, they are driving geo-hackers into the streets to
    make their own maps.  He compared the San Francisco map of wi-fi spots
    which overlay a street map with the London, England, version which
    lacked the street grid. Finally, he mentioned that without map
    literacy navigation would be limited to a relatively small number of


    Scott Vollrath, IFTF research manger, showed preliminary research on
    Geoweb readiness but admitted data was lacking for many sectors and
    countries. He tracked 148 countries using UN, ITU, and research
    institution information as well as cartographic atlases and academic
    papers. He assigned scores of 0 to 100. This, of course, placed the
    rich countries at the top and places like Niger at the very bottom.
    He said that North America will lead in top down applications like
    precision agriculture (more on that ...), security, and manufacturing
    while western Europe will lead in bottom-up apps like gaming and urban
    computing (gaming, art coops, social networking using electronics). L
    atin America will have some precision agriculture, eco-toursim and
    urban computing. He predicted there would be rapid grown in E. Europe,
    the Pacific Rim and high tech cities in India. I felt this meant
    another way rural areas in general and Africa would not easily

    The maps displayed for the readiness index reminded me of Larry
    Landwebers early maps (circa 1990) of Internet penetration where a
    physics lab in the capital city of a country might have had the sole
    56 Kb connection, thus qualifying the whole nation to be colored
    purple as was the U.S., Finland, Netherlands, Canada... even though
    every place outside the capital was not even cognizant of the

    Another issue is the popularity of quantified indexes and rating
    systems that assign a score to countries (ICT readiness, corruption,
    human development) or to restaurants (Zagat) or bottles of wine
    (Parkers Wine Spectator) and how this form of evaluation is seen as
    American by many Europeans, even though we in the U.S. tout the
    methods as universal.


    Following the presentation on the readiness index leading edge
    applications  panel explained some of the terms used by Vollrath

    -Urban computing

    Mogi is a Japanese game with virtual treasures found using mobile
    phones.  they can trade tokens and run into other people

    Verizon challenge game (nobody in the audience had played this
    either)  You need to create a photo journal (using Verizons service)
    as you roam an area.

    -Built environments

    These are getting quite complex and those managing it need a lot of
    info. They cant rely on blueprints but temporal info about the sites.

    Fleet management; supply chain; manufacturing; facilities management.

    -Health zones

    Where you live determines your health.  epidemiological and
    environmental maps. (Silicon Valley Toxic Waste Coalition!)

    health resources

    risky places

    people at risk

    -Precision farms

    Microclimate sensing

    yield monitoring

    automated geo-guidance

    high-value row crops

    livestock management

    -Secure places

    there is a lot of publicity and money being spent in this area.
    Critical infrastructures

    high-profile events

    crime watch

    emergency response

    -At-risk ecologies



    indigenous mapping

    This was followed by forecasts in six areas:

    Transparency: making the invisible visible using Smart Dust, RFIDs
    using SMS to alert callers to infected buildings during SARS scare.
    This was a service available in Hong Kong. This raises questions about
    privacy and health transparency.  Having info about risk exposure will
    change the way we move about.  (USC participatory. mapping of
    dangerous areas according to race of respondent)   In security, it
    could be used for placing snipers to protect (or sweep and clean out)
    an area with the fewest resources.

    Pixel views: fragmenting places and spaces: (image of a field with all
    kinds of weeds, crop stress, and soil composition). Its no longer
    just  one field. GPS locator in tractors enables farmers to use fewer
    and less skilled employees. And the farms get bigger to justify the
    outlay for this type of analysis.  Mike thinks this will help people
    understand microclimates and more info to benefit small farmers in
    developing countries.

    Pathmaking: creating spatial memory. Will this result in routes of
    travel being mapped which will help those who follow. Some indigenous.
    groups are making their own maps (American Indians using ESRI GIS
    mapping systems for land and resources management)

    Ground truth: empowering people in place. Will crime stats be mapped
    and made available for all to use and make decisions? Megans Law
    already provides names and locations of sex offenders. Will it expand
    to include other offenses (barking dog complaints, speeding tickets,
    overdue library books?)

    Subversion: playing with convention

    pacmanhattan taking place in Washington Square.  People run around and
    try to eliminate the Pac Man  (IIA and mapping surveillance cameras)

    End of Cyberspace.  Can you see me now? is a London based game.
    Participants carry devices that let them see the online action as well
    as taking place in the real world arena.


    What stood out for me was the degree to which a company such as
    Proctor & Gamble--most of whose products are still purchased at stores
    and not online--will invest in shopping cart and customer surveillance
    technology in order to track behavior and suggest purchases. This is
    important because 80% of the purchases are decided once the shopper is
    in the store. Large screens are attached to some supermarket carts in
    Germany and others in Boston, Massachusetts. They make use of Wi-Fi to
    guide the shopper with marketing messages and track their patterns. It
    turns out that casinos are the prime users of customer tracking
    technology. Franz Dill of  P & G Global Analytics, showed a screen of
    a company called Reactrix which projects ads on the floor as you move.
    The shopper reacts and kicks away images of the product. They arent
    sure it sells anything, but its good publicity for new items.

    Richard Beckwith of the Intel Vineyards Project showed a British
    Columbian vineyard situated in a relatively hilly area where the
    temperature varied depending on the sun exposure and the altitude.
    Different grapes mature better in different zones. By installing 65
    motes (sensors plus antennas and radios) in a two acre/one hectare
    zone the vineyard manager could see a readout during the day of
    temperature changes and be alerted to a damaging frost. As a former
    vineyard owner this was of particular interest to me. At this time
    only crops with a high value (cannibis?)  could justify investment in
    this network of sensors. Beckwith did say that they found that there
    was enough sun ( measured in degree-days) to replant one part of the
    vineyard with a grape that brought a much higher price than the one
    originally chosen.

    Schuyler Erle of the Locative Media Lab talked about the recent San
    Francisco election and how the strategist for his Green candidate did
    not have good GIS information. He believes the outcome of the
    elections in the future may depend on more timely use of GIS info.
    Someone mentioned fundrace.org which is fascinating for American
    voters. You can input your zip code and see all the political
    donations made by your neighbors. There are also maps of states, three
    digit zip codes, and some cities. Large donations have large circles
    and there are some interesting patterns for Dallas, Los Angeles, and
    New York.

    Tom Kalil who used to work in the Clinton administration (now with
    Univ. of California) gave a rundown of federal geo. projects started
    with Gore and Clintons support. He mentioned Digital Earth, the
    controversial NetDay 96, Geospatial One Stop, and the National
    Geospatial Intelligence Agency. The NTIA supported the Chicago
    Neighborhood Early Warning system by mapping crime statistics.

    He emphasized the difference in info policies of the U.S. and the E.U.
    The U.S. prices info at marginal cost of dissemination, the E.U.: cost
    recovery, i.e. full cost of collection. At this time the U.S. market
    is five times that of the E.U.. The open question is the right mix of
    fee or for free. He said that geo-spatial literacy was critical if
    this field was going to flourish. The US is second to last in
    geography literacy for 18-24 year olds.  30% could not find the
    Pacific Ocean, and only one in four knew that the U.S. population was
    between 150 to 350 million.


    I was lucky to attend this meeting. Where it will go depencds on map
    literacy, policy changes, cheaper hardware, and a lot of alignment of
    emerging standards.  The Web 2.0 conference in another part of town
    did not even consider the aspect of geospatial information. Will these
    developments intersect with other trends? Or will they mainly provide
    material for writers and conference organizers much as virtual reality
    did in the early 90s. I went home and reviewed my old Hi-8 videotapes
    of CyberThon, a 24 hour event held in San Franciso many years ago...


    *Rip van Winkle is an 18th century character in a story by Washington
    Irving.  Rip is a village slacker who wanders off, falls asleep for
    years and  finally awakes to find old friends long gone and the world
    of upstate New York no longer a colony but part of a newly independent
    country, the U.S.A.


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