June 16, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

karen.jpgI really like the writings of Steven Johnson and I blogged recently about his book Ghost Map, which I really enjoyed. So interesting to come across his new start-up venture outside.in – a website that Johnson says “is an attempt to collectively build the geographic Web, neighborhood by neighborhood...the site is ultimately about a new kind of experience. You sit at a computer and type in a street address, or a neighborhood name, or a zip code — perhaps for your own home area, perhaps for a place you’re visiting or interested in — and within seconds the screen gives you a glimpse of all the textured, real-world issues and conversations and news unfolding in the location you’ve entered.”

So you can find out the exact information you need coursing through the veins of the neighbourhood: crime data; gossip about new restaurants opening; news about the local school and so on. Great concept if you ask me and I could use it in my own area (Newcastle, Australia). Recently, my elderly mother has been extremely ill and we’ve had to find out information ranging from how to find a mobile hairdresser, to where to buy specific medical equipment and how to find aged-care. We’ve had to obtain this information from disparate sources; we’ve had to basically be mind-readers and know what questions to ask (because if you don’t ask, the information is not volunteered); we’ve had to be demanding sometimes to get what we need; we’ve had to know what Government Department deals with what service. To pull all this together,we’ve run around and visited (both physically and virtually) hospitals; local Government websites; medical centres; old age homes; I’ve even bailed up elderly ladies in homes to ask them how they get their hair done!

A concept like outside.in would clearly allow you to tap into the jumbled conversations of the neighbourhood in a single space, helping to unify content. As far as I can see, outside.in has been co-constructed with Johnson and bloggers in Brooklyn, NY, who blog about their local area. Using a simple tagging architecture for all posts – what/where/when – people can discover what is happening in their area; when it’s happening; and where it’s going on. Maps also help to contextualise neighbourhood knowledge – as you drag a map, the content changes. And it’s not just the latest and greatest news that’s posted because sometimes news stories and information remain active for many months. So if there’s a particular or controversial development project going on, for example, people can track the whole history of the project.

It’s really like participating within a community about your community, with content linked to physical spaces. Nice idea – wish we had it here, sure would have helped me aggregate disparate information in my area!


Entry filed under: Cartography, Social networks, Society, Useful resources, Web 2.0.

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