16 February 2007

How the web thwarts virtuality

Here's a new site which I think indicates a general trend which has creeping potential to be really important for proponents of place: placeblogger.

Notice the tagline: "towards an annotated world..."

One emerging trend in our networked world is the return of geography in (post-) modern consciousness. I remember seeing an ad for a cell-phone company (can't remember which) a few years back which said, "New York, Buenos Aires. What's the difference?" To which one can only reply that if you don't find the difference obvious, then I pity you your blindness. That ad was based on a 20th century, world-is-flat (a la Thomas Friedman) mentality. Increasingly, I'm seeing geography--by which I mean embodied place--emerge as a concern for designers, and in particular for designers of web-based services and products.

I (almost) hate to break it to Thomas Friedman and his fans, but, um... no, it's not.

Although placeblogger specifically is a project inspired by the journalism/ free press movement online, there are tremendous implications--and opportunities!--for anyone who cares about place. Even as our world becomes increasingly virtual (where we use the word "community" to describe people who merely share interests), it also becomes becomes ever more embodied (where your neighbors--who drink the same water and breathe the same air--matter more than your far-away fellow-feelers). It's just so surprising--and delighting--to find that the Internet organically enhances embodied experience as well as what you might call virtual experience.