Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Spatial technology: omnipresent goodness versus insidious invasiveness

Image description: The Clustrmaps image of the world showing the hits on the Spatialworlds blog from 27/9/07 - 19/9/08.

Spatial Worlds Website

Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

The pervasive technology
Many people talk about the pervasive nature of spatial technology. Even my blog uses spatial technology in the form of the cluster map which appears as the first blog entry. Cluster maps are basic dot maps which plot and quantify the hits on my blog. How amazing that the technology can record, plot, quantify and visually represent every person in the world who access my site. Cluster maps are free to add to websites and blogs and can be accessed via the cluster map site at http://www.clustrmaps.com/.
While I have only had 602 hits over the past 12 months (apparently not showing all the hits), what is really interesting to me are the places the blog has been accessed and having a relative idea of the places where the blog is most popular.
In summary, the locations which have used the blog the most are Hong Kong, Dallas, Melbourne, Washington, Sydney and Toronto. The blog has been accessed from 26 world locations, with the majority of hits being in the US and Australia. All interesting stuff but also something to contemplate. Whilst pervasive means omnipresent and everywhere, it also means insidious and invasive. I can't help thinking that there is something 'big brother' about knowing the location of all those in the world who access my blog. Such a capability of spatial technology is only the tip of the iceberg to the monitoring ability of spatial technology. For example, GPS technology is being used for parental monitoring of their children , avoiding domestic violence stalking and monitoring prisoners on home release. I am confident the majority of spatial technology is used for the common good of society but it is also a technology which can be put to ill-use in society. More recently the media outcry over the invasive nature of Google Maps Streetview highights the potential this technology has to be abused by those wanting to invade privacy and profit by invasive monitoring of individuals. While the nature of Streetview is obvious to the majority of the public due to its wide use, there are many more spatial technologies which impacts on our daily lifes and we don't even know it. For example how does the taxi company know where we are when we ring up and why do we get text messages when we are in some particular location? All spatial technologies!! Several great Youtube videos demonstrate through humour the fear in society of the invasive nature of spatial technology

For many citizens the publicity about Google Maps Streetview has just confirmed their fear of the insidious nature of technologies such as GIS and GPS. Much of this fear is out of ignorance and fear of the new. However we do need to make sure that the technology does remain philosophically sound for the common good of society. I am sure those in the Dark Ages had a similar fear of books! It is beholden on education systems to reduce the ignorance and fear of spatial technology. Only then can society be empowered to understand and even monitor this powerful technological monitoring tool. Maybe wishful thinking but worth a try.

No comments: