GeoWorld September 2012

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Age of Information changes how people consume and share information—how they live their lives. When examining emerging technology, to focus on the gadgets is to miss the point entirely, confusing products with the skill and knowledge behind their design. In fact, products come to represent technological benchmarks only because of the way they're labeled and packaged for consumers. In truth, there's little technological dif- ference between a 512MB flash drive and the 32GB model, no matter what marketers tell us. Products rarely emerge; they're assembled, pack- T aged and consumed. They become obsolete, and they're replaced by a new model each year. The technology behind these products, however, is more ephemeral: less of a what than a how. It's not cre- ated according to a schedule. Instead, it evolves and emerges as innovation dictates and epiphany strikes. The addition of cheaper, higher-resolution screens to mobile devices was an attractive and popular design element, but the real "game changer" was the incor- poration of spatial data to "geotag" photos. By using data such devices already access, the quality of infor- mation already captured by average users increased by an order of magnitude. And although a larger-capacity portable hard drive can be useful, it was the growing movement to cloud- based storage that freed users from their desks and offices, and made more accessible a type of innova- tion that arises not from closed-door development, but from open, collaborative development communities. Babel On A lack of common language can choke the flow of informa- tion. This is equally true for social groups and computer networks. In much the same way that services such as Google Translate unite international bloggers into one global blogosphere, the emergence of cross-platform and multilingual programming languages provide elegant means for component technologies to "talk" to each other. This led to the growth of incredibly complex techno- logical ecologies connected by the Semantic Web. The JSON text format, for example, is a language- independent, streamlined version of XML that's far better-suited to the rapid transfer of immense amounts of data. The GeoJSON format takes this a step further he growing pains of the last century continue to be a focal point for writers trying to make sense of how society's quantum leap from Industrialization to the to streamline the language needed to describe GIS data structures. The emergence of this language played a key role in allowing rich GIS and other spatial data to communi- cate with other platforms, from Insight 3D to Facebook. Creation and Curation In the Web's early days, the task of creating Internet media was somewhat esoteric. As digitizing tools and techniques became more widespread, isolated islands of Web content emerged everywhere. To find particular content in this noisy mess required inside knowledge, exceptional skill or just blind luck. Our ability to tap into this flow of information has vastly improved, but as more data stream across network cables and evaporate into the cloud, the amount of "noise" (i.e., worthless data, spam, fuzz, etc.) increases. By now, most The University of British Columbia's Insight 3-D model demonstrates how rich, dynamic and spatially accurate models of the real world may be constructed using streamlined coding languages such as GeoJSON. S E PT E MB ER 2O12 / WWW . GEOPLA CE . COM 27

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