Platial on how social mapping will change the world

And today, I was completely blown away when I caught up on a series of posts by Portland-based Platial’s Di-Ann Eisnor, documenting her thoughts on “How neogeography will change the way we live.” After reading the series, you’ll never look at mapping the same way again.

I always wish companies took time to blog a little bit more. Share a little insight. Blow off some steam. Or even just tell us what they’re thinking.

Sometimes I think the folks running startups forget that they’ve got a great deal to share. That their experience or their failures or even just their focusing on a singular topic in excruciating detail gives them a unique vantage for which many of us mere mortals yearn.

That’s why I love people like David Abramowski who take the time to chronicle their journey.

And today, I was completely blown away when I caught up on a series of posts by Portland-based Platial‘s Di-Ann Eisnor, documenting her thoughts on “How neogeography will change the way we live.” After reading the series, you’ll never look at mapping the same way again.

Di-Ann introduces the series with a simple premise that we have been given a toolset—albeit imperfect—that allows us to define our world in our terms.

Over the past several years, many of us have been mixing liberal doses of enthusiasm with the burgeoning new toolsets in an attempt to approach this vision. Despite numerous flaws, issues, concerns, and challenges, we can look back and see that collectively, we have all achieved a great milestone together – the beginning of a more diverse representation of the world around us.

First, she highlights the need for analysis. Information is good, but filtered information is better:

User-generated content and citizen created mash-ups are in early stages of their value contribution. To increase value, citizens require more robust tools for analyzing data and technology for visualizing large data-sets for a diverse amount of use cases from crisis management to wedding planning. We estimate that only 10% of content contributed to Platial & Frappr is of value to users outside of the mapmaker’s community.

In the next stage, she describes how collaboration within maps brings another filter to the equation, especially in terms of timeliness and trust:

As people have better control over extending location-awareness to their trusted networks, trust-worthy information increases. Improvements to timeliness and trust are well underway, however, benefit is a more complex and interesting problem to solve.

Then, the historical context of the location comes into play. The ambient awareness that exists all around us through charted history and in the minds of our contemporaries.

In stage 3, location is deeply connected to our immediate view and informs us in an ambient way as we passively gather information. The same questions, we answered in Stage 0, can be better answered with a finer grained, context changing description. “Where am I?” will provide a hyper local knowledge layer about everything from forgotten histories, toxicity levels and profile-based social commentary which will help us navigate both near and far with the benefit of millions of Geoweb contributors. Traffic, travel, interest, education, crime, politics, economics, language translation, news become a personal location layer. Maps become the ultimate transmitter of knowledge and education happens everywhere you roam.

And what if those shared experiences could knock down walls and traverse cultures? Could there be some sort of diplomacy inherent in this shared understanding? Di-Ann argues that there is.

Neogeography can be the foundation of a new dialogue connecting people across borders, sharing local customs and concepts. Milton C. Cummings Jr. defines cultural diplomacy as “… the exchange of ideas, information, art, lifestyles, values systems, traditions, beliefs and other aspects of cultures….” These ideas, information, lifestyles, values systems become more transparent, easier to analyze to identify points of connection and agreement. Cultures have become collections of subcultures which can be navigated through maps.

In conclusion, she offers that it is up to us. We have the tools. Now, we need to use them. And use them actively. We need to form a vibrant community.

We’re not there yet, but if we keep working on it, we will be.

The infrastructure, need and participation is in place and we can get to work on answering the rest of the hard questions. Emergent products, services and regions will not neatly fit into these stages but will overlap, build on one another, integrate and probably conflict but will continue to change the way we live. Pragmatically speaking, we may have to wait another year to have seamless answers to, “Where can I get the best bagel on the Lower East side right this second?” and we’ll first need to be spammed by iPhone based friend-finding services with bugs but its a small investment for ubiquitous knowledge. Happy Mapping.

But don’t just take my Cliff’s Notes version of her discussion. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and spend a few minutes wandering through Di-Ann’s map of the world of social mapping.


  1. Rick, love the cliff notes! Thank you for helping people digest. See you at Webvisions later.

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