ICIS 2013 Research-In-Progress Presentation - Location-based services allow people to attach information to locations, which changes the space for other people who use it. These small, individual geo-tagged interactions provide a vast mosaic for learning about community relationships with public space, once they are organized and interpreted.
Our Urbic (Urban Analytics) social media research was received with warm enthusiasm from the International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS) in Milan. Specifically we presented our research methods and findings to the eGovernment pre-workshop by framing the opportunity provided to municipalities from geo-social data feedback.
The updated report investigated an invisible layer of “social noise” that surrounds our streets and neighbourhoods when people like re-act online to the shops, parks, schools, squares and almost anything that occupies a physical space. The opportunity to listen to citizens in a new powerful way can be even considered a responsibility of local governments when improving public places.
An example of Bocconi’s Veledromo building was further used to show how social data revealed language trends, specificall “caldo” and complaints around the uncomfortably hot environment agreed by bottom-up crowdsourced markings-up online.
Some interesting feedback came our way including the potential disincentive for citizens to post if they know their municipality is listening to them, and the technical ability to remotely check-in on Facebook. Overall this was an excellent opportunity to present our work to the eGovernment community and we were rewarded by interest in applying our methods in cities from Auckland to Zurich, including an idea to present at the World Expo in Milan.
The D.C. Office of Planning has paired up with the National Capital Planning Commission to explore the potential of altering the federal Height of Buildings Act of 1910, which has defined the District’s skyline for nearly a century. With limited space for expansion and a growing population, the city is studying different ways to potentially change the height limit while preserving the distinct horizontality of the monumental skyline.
The Local lens of investigation in SoLoMo will seek to lay the foundation for our research by examining the local layer that connects social and mobile technologies to physical locations. This assumes a clear distinction of technological access: The Internet that once required us to be tethered to a desk will be left behind. With advancements in mobile technologies (described fully in the Mobile chapter of this report), people now carry around powerful computers that take the shape of the smartphones in our hands. And with Local-Mobile technologies (LoMo) it is now possible for online services to know where these computers are, and in turn, where we are. So now it has become both worthwhile and valuable to be told information about the world immediately around you, simply because we now carry the means for interpreting it.
This theoretical inquiry will examine the so-called geography of importance in detail, explaining the notion of a relevancy of information that is transient and evolving on according to the individual’s location. In order to do so the notion of relevance will first be defined and then dissected as it pertains to local context.
Wilson and Sperber isolate relevancy via personal context. To make a message deductible, we must connect the stimulus with something we already know and understand (Wilson, 2004). When the resulting conclusions matter to a particular person it will result in a positive cognitive effect and relevance is thus achieved. Brusilovsky appreciates the importance of context in navigation by ultimately deviating from a “one-size-fits-all” approach (Brusilovsky, 2003). Context is one of the biggest challenges for Information Retrieval Systems (IRS), Artificial Intelligence systems (AI), and Location-Based Services (LBS) alike. Wilson and Sperber’s relevance theory touches on “contextual implications” when the stimulus is connected with something one already knows in order to make the message deductible (Wilson, 2004). That something could well be user knowledge from the past, however there is indeed a greater opportunity than ever before to exploit contextual information in the physical world around a person, with say the powerful computing that resides within their smartphone.
According to Tamine-Lechani, a system is context-aware if it exploits a “rich repository” of context data in order to deliver relevant information to the user (Tamine-Lechani, 2010). This research provides a host of dimensions that can be “exploited”. Firstly, the device from which a user is searching can play an important role in what sort of information could be more relevant. For example, requests from a mobile phone may suggest the user is on the go. The mobile user may thus have less time and even greater attention deficiencies, as previously mentioned. Concise information in manageable chunks is thus more relevant for say, while waiting in the supermarket checkout. Ubiquitous searching leads into a second consideration of the spatiotemporal – i.e. finding the most appropriate information that might be to filter the given time and space where a user might be searching from. Directions to an airport may be structured differently if the user is in the metropolitan area, or elsewhere in the country, to take just one example. The users themselves could be the greatest source of contextual fine-tuning for search. Applications or mobile search engines can size up the user’s personal demographics (such as gender or language), as well as their psychological tendencies (like anxiety and frustration), or their cognitive situation (level of expertise, or level of interest). A contextual IRS or LBS could even leverage a user’s social connections, especially along the lines of social media, as this report will further discuss. The direct task and problem must certainly be addressed. In terms of the desired experience, some users motives may lie in the casual exploration of information, local discovery, serendipitous connections, whereas others seek perhaps a purely transactional requirement or specific information need, to take just a few examples of new human desires for digesting local information. Finally the document format or style of information could also be taken into consideration, as Tamine-Lechani assume that some users may have preferences for ‘multivariable space’ (structure, layout, style, etc.), especially whilst on-the-go, or even on vacation.
These nuances have already been implemented to varying degrees inside the applications on the smartphones we carry. They show that the search for relevance is an evolving, subjective, and highly contextual process.
Location-based Services (LBS) are location-aware mobile technologies, which can locate themselves either through GPS, Wi-Fi, or triangulation of radio waves. Location-aware technologies and personal mobile technologies make it possible for people to attach information to locations. The information can be accessed by people who utilize the relevant technologies. Location-aware technologies further strengthen people’s connection to their surroundings because they also allow people to locate people. De Souza e Silva and Frith distinguishes between location-based social networking, where people can locate their friends on the mobile screen, and location-based services, where people can access and upload information, which is place-specific. (de Souza e Silva A. a., 2012, pp. 6-7)
For the purposes of this research, the flow of location-based information is very much a two-way street. Users are supplied with locally based information that carries more relevance when accessed where and when they need it. Yet users of LBSs also supply their own feedback by sharing local information along social networks and review sites. The Economist supports this distinction by dividing location-based services into two similar groups; the location-based social networks (LBSN) and the local information services.
The first category contains services such as Foursquare, Highlight, and Banjo. These can be differentiated from other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, where location is of a secondary importance to networking broadcasts. Such LBSNs have the connection between location and social connections in common, though they apply different relevance to the locational and social aspects. Foursquare users “check-in” at places such as cafés, shops, and supermarkets in order to let their friends know where they are and what they are doing. Banjo and Highlight integrate with other social network connections from various social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. Users, who are signed in to their account, will be notified when social network connections are in their proximity.
The second category is that of local information services. Crowdsourced services such as Yelp and TripAdvisor are making the Yellow Pages obsolete as they pair vital information such as address, phone number, website links, and maps with user generated reviews. As location-based services mature, they consolidate or vanish. Location-based services are dependent on their ability to build networks of suppliers and users. A location-based service, such as a taxi finding application, might start in the city of Manchester, U.K. and try to achieve network effects there. If they succeed in one city they might attempt to expand their networks to other cities in the Northwest and across the U.K., for example. As location-based services grow they will often attempt to add more criteria of relevance to their services in order to serve needs of their growing networks. (Economist, 2012, pp. 6-9) Furthermore, the information attached to the location is always dynamic, because it is constantly being created, edited, and deleted. Two people may stand in the same location, open the same app or browser, and search for the same word and get different results, because they are curated by different personal search filters. Some locations therefore remain invisible to a person, because he does not have the mobile interface to access that information. The key point is that location and location-based information combined are gaining relevance and acquiring statuses similar to but different from those of spaces and places as facilitators of our social, cultural, and spatial interactions.