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Q&A WITH MIKE LIEBHOLD
Mapping “Deep Place”
By Spencer Reiss

Wireless networks can flesh out the physical world, says Institute for the Future senior researcher Mike Liebhold, author of the white paper “Infrastructure for the New Geography.”

What’s the “new geography”?

We’ve got huge amounts of data about the planet, but most stays walled off in proprietary databases or people’s heads. Wireless networks let us make that information not just visible, but visible in place. It’s first-person geography.

You talk about “deep place.”

Coding data by location gives you an overlay of everything known about a particular spot on the earth. Imagine you can flip open a device, and there’s a menu that has cultural information, social information, restaurants. Actuarial information about the probability of a car wreck at this corner. Or maybe just a red light to say that you’re in a crime zone.

So how do we get there?

The Open Geospatial Consortium, the World Wide Web Consortium, and other standards and hacker groups are converging on software mechanisms to bring geodata of all kinds online. But coming up with a user interface for receiving the deep information of place is not trivial. A lot of people have trouble just finding the Pacific Ocean on a map. We can’t fix that, but I’d be happy if they could find out a little more about where they are right now. With the World Wide Web, we’ve built the encyclopedia. Now it’s time to do the atlas.

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