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Introduction · Second Inclusiva-net Meeting: Digital Networks and Physical Space

Introductory text by Juan Martín Prada (director of the Inclusiva-net plattform)

The relationship between digital and physical spaces is becoming increasingly important in the development of new technological applications. Just as several years ago, portable communication systems like mobile phones and electronic organizers began to incorporate visual tools such as photographic and video cameras, nowadays they also include GPS devices that provide geo-localization coordinates.

Meanwhile, on the Internet, huge breakthroughs are occurring in the development of applications related to geographic information systems; that is, systems that manage geographically referenced information using data bases usually associated to digital maps.

That is why geotagging activities have become increasingly common on Web 2.0; that is, assigning spatial coordinates or physical location data to certain files, such as georeferencing photographs on platforms including Flickr, Mappr, and Google Earth, or assigning geographic identifiers to texts and phrases, even video and audio documents. The popularization of "annotating the world" activities is unquestionably one of the key processes in the evolution of the current Web toward the formation of what many people are already calling the geospatial web. Widespread use is being made of the term: “Earth as Universal Desktop”.

Clearly, the desire to know more about the geographic spaces around us, the place where we live or that we are traveling through, as well as the people who live there or travel through them has found one of its most active development channels in the participatory technologies that characterize social networks, laying the foundations for what we could call "the local Web 2.0". Some of the best possible examples of this drive to re-territorialize that comprises a large part of current online dynamics are the open, communicative practices focused on the lived experience of a place that are being carried out at present in hyperlocal journalism and place blogging (a term commonly used to refer to blogs centred on events, news, and people in a specific local area such as a neighbourhood or a small town). The recent addition of some aggregators and search engines on placeblogs are proof of the growing importance of this form of relationship and the complementary nature of the communicative space on networks and the physical space we inhabit.

Artistic and experimental practices linked to what in 2003 began to be called "locative media" demonstrate an intensely critical reaction to the globalizing dislocation and the loss of any geographic or political context, which has long been associated with the experience of connecting to the Internet. Using all kinds of mobile and wireless technologies and computer localization devices, many artistic manifestations today are attempting to reconfigure the physical spatial contexts of communication and interaction among people.

Many artistic proposals use mapping, geo-annotation, localization, spatial mobility, or mixed reality games strategies to call for a new convergence between the digital space of networks and the actual territory. They are always dependent on specific social and geographic contexts and serve as the first glimpse of what we might call a new participatory digital type of urban development.

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