It has been 25 years since the desktop, with its files and folders, was introduced as a way to think about what went on inside a personal computer. The World Wide Web brought other ways of imagining the flow of data. With the dominance of cell phones(http://
“The map underlies man’s ability to perceive,” said Richard Saul Wurman, a graphic designer who was a pioneer in the use of maps as a generalized way to search for information of all kinds before the emergence of the online world.
As this metaphor takes over, it will change the way we behave, the way we think and the way we find our way around new neighborhoods. As researchers and businesses learn how to use all the information about a user’s location that phones can provide, new privacy issues will emerge. You may use your phone to find friends and restaurants, but somebody else may be using your phone to find you and find out about you.
Digital map displays on hand-held phones can now show the nearest gas station or A.T.M., reviews of nearby restaurants posted online by diners, or the location of friends. In the latest and biggest example of the map’s power and versatility, Google started a location-aware friend-finding system called Latitude in 27 countries early this month.
On its face, Google’s new service — available on dozens of mobile systems — is simply a way for friends to keep track of one another and meet up, for families to stay in touch or for parents to find comfort in knowing where their children are.
But it will generate a gold mine of new information about where millions of people travel each day, and there is no doubt that Google and others are planning to dig in that mine. “Everyone is watching Google, and this will open a floodgate of location-oriented applications and services,” said Greg Skibiski, the chief executive of Sense Networks, a New York City firm that mines the millions of digital trails left by cell phones users for marketing purposes.
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“This is a new metaphor upon which others can build,” said Michael Halbherr, Nokia’s vice president for social location services.
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