Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mapping where the pulse is

We started with the question: How do we make a geo-tag more interesting?

The direction we took was geo-tagging  "iconic moments."

I had already collected notable stories out of personal interest, including some from walking circles over  8 years along Jones, W 4th St, Cornelia and Bleecker in Greenwich Village.

We soon discovered the so-called "chicken pox" look and pin poking was not an efficient way to browse stories at locations. The top-level conveyed no meaningful info. The visualization had the same old look for every address search. A familiar map. And it was hard to tell which pin to poke.

We needed a new geo-spatial media browser for frequent, speedy, exploration.  And in this world, people don't just want speed, they also want an exciting visual and sensual experience.

We needed different ways of visualizing a place beyond a map and stock streetviews.

Cafe Terrace (9-11 Place du Forum, Arles, France
Photo of the Day & 1888 Van Gogh painting 

Stitching interesting visuals at a location became paramount.

Chemin Des Segonnaux (Arles)
Photo of the Day & 1888 Starry Starry Night by Van Gogh 

In this world, it is also no longer just about looking good. It also has to be interesting. Compelling narratives for a location became paramount.

While living at 2727 Benedict (LA), MGM star Hedy Lamarr  invented wi-fi, bluetooth, and cellular frequency hopping with neighbor George Antheil's piano roll. Her invention was first used by JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

Hedy Lamarr was also the face of Corel Draw 
and later sold  49% of her wireless patent in Ottawa 
to Wi-Lan Inc (1 Holland Ave)   

At 18, in Ecstasy (1933), Hedy Lamarr became the 1st studio star appearing on screen in an orgasm. It was filmed in Prague.  Reportedly a pin was used to achieve the expressions.

Combining intriguing visuals with location identifications drove "like" notifications in stories shared in social media.

And let's face it. Today it isn't just about looking good and being interesting anymore. It has to be about your viewer. There needs to be a personal connection.

Al Pacino directed his 1st feature film Chinese Coffee (2000)
 at our music hangout Caffe Vivaldi (32 Jones, NY) 

Notifications for stories shared in social media were mostly driven by adding personal facts and interesting related personal images to a story.  The most popular posts we saw  had an interesting visual, a unique story AND a personal connection. A post becomes most popular when a users have previously crossed paths with a place or a similar story. I call this the "crossing paths" trigger.

* *  *
For depth, we went down a path we didn't even believe was possible, geo-tagging 1.4 million notable items into stories.

Categories started to emerge: 1) Movies 2) Music 3) Photos of the Day 4) Art and Literature 5) Histories and Biographies 6) Inventions.

  Serpico starring Al Pacino at 150 S 8th St (Brooklyn) 

Additionally, I had curated more than 50,000 photos daily over a decade, from around the world, out of personal interest.

As time progressed, though unintentional, these geo-spatial story databases yielded the world's largest literature atlas and music history atlas, the internet's photos of the day,  and almost every notable movie scene geo-tagged.

311 10th Ave NY - Blondie by Roberta Bayley 

Photos of the Day were later expanded into geo-tagged portfolios of iconic photographers from Brassaii, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and Berenice Abbott to Vivian Maier, Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz.

Vivian Maier 1953 self-portrait on Broadway 
between 86th and 87th Streets. 
Location found by geo-sleuth on Facebook.

Archives suddenly had a new kind of search engine - by place.

It took on an increasingly important mission of its own:  a movement to map the entire history of art and invention. In many incidences, we became the first to document "where" something important took place. Other photos, stories and clues became important scraps to help identify locations. Meaningless photos and Grade B movie scenes suddenly had greater meaning offering geographical artifacts to help identify locations in the past.  Suddenly the only map of JD Salinger's entire life was available. The first map of Stanley Kubrick's first film was also created. Geo-tagging suddenly took on special historical significance.

Where JD Salinger last lived 
(GPS  43.511931, -72.346789)

New history was discovered from mapping iconic moments.

We saw a high density of  "closet Canadians" shaping American culture. The exiled Canadian expat seemed highly motivated to shape American history. Half of the Hollywood studios were founded by people who had lived in Canada.

Angelina Jolie with dad Jon Voight. 
Her maternal grandpa was Canadian. 
Dorothy Chandler Pavillion (1986 Oscars) 

While in social media, every post had a feeling of disappearing soon, we found in locative media that posts are more valuable because they re-appear to tell a story about a place whenever you cross paths with it. Social media (a collection of evaporating snippets)  is disposable, locative media is collectible.

This became a place to study places. And in turn, study people who make history  and how important things happened. These were stories that put people on the map.

* * *

We also discovered a user with GPS was prone to seeing the same stories over and over while regularly travelling along an habitual path. Pro-active place searches were slightly better for exploration, but one's thoughts of places to search start to diminish with time.

We needed a persistent method for regular exploration.

We settled on a birthday algorithm to feature places of notable profiles for daily birthdays. This allowed for spontaneous exploration and visualization, throwing back to nostalgic stories on birthdays. It even created an  interesting horoscope of the day. Common stories were found among people born on the same day as if there was an astrological connection.

Alt country singer Gram Parson (born Nov 5, 1946) seen with Keith Richards 1971 at Villa Nellecote (6 Ave Louise Bordes, Villefranche-sur-Mer, France) where Rolling Stones recorded Exile on Main Street

Alt country singer Ryan Adams (also born Nov 5, 1974) 
seen at Massey Hall (Toronto) Nov 12, 2014  by Dave Borins. 

Singer Bryan Adams (also born Nov 5, 1959)  opened Live Aid 
at JFK Stadium (Philadelphia)  July 13, 1985. 

From these astrological, geographical stories, viewers could connect with other stories of the day with a mutual geo-tag or profile tag.

* * *

Story recommendations matched with user activities became another spontaneous trigger point for exploration. Whenever a user posted or viewed a photo, we could recommend another photo and story contextual to that post with historic significance.

There are 25 billion+ geo-tags out there and we had already pinned stories at the world's most popular geo-tags which proportionately cover most of the geo-tagging done daily.

* * *

We also needed a way to rank stories as some places had 1000 stories. I imagined the new Mayor of a place being a person who posted the highest ranked story/photo.

We see geo-indexing as the next big thing for Art.  Instead of profile check-ins, it's Art check-ins. You can then see art on demand, on location (ranked)...a photo, a movie scene, a song, a story, a blog..."locative art"...anytime you visit/search a place.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Irony of Maps

The first thing we learned after creating the world's largest GPS story atlas was a painful pill to swallow.

Users do not like to regularly use maps or GPS.

Map scrolling and GPS  are still too tedious to use by the minute/second. They are made for incidental needs of drivers or walkers -  not  exactly for the speed of media browsing.

 scrolling map  system from 1927
 Plus Four Wristlet Route Indicator
1st Navigation Device for Motorists
(20 scrolls

Today map scrolling is not much faster than 1927.  GPS and maps today are still primarily designed for one-off look ups. 

Fixed map graphics are also visually familiar (on purpose). Not exactly thrilling new stuff to see. For GPS, information "nearby" is almost always fixed (stagnant).

People mostly use maps or GPS contextual to activities that need them, and only sparingly for reference..."because they have to" (not often because they want to).

In an era, where by-the-second notifications and speed are primary for any successful app, maps and GPS are doomed to fail in their current form.

 1932 invention required driver to pull over and
 reload the map if car changed routes or turned. 

Maps consume too much time without offering a return on a goal.

Millions of viewers did, however, find location identification fascinating for intriguing photos and movie scenes whose locations had mystique. They liked location IDs being featured with interesting visuals instead of maps.

Robert De Niro in Godfather II (1974)  between Ave A and Ave B on East 6th St in New York City near your hangout at  Sidewalk Cafe. Red building above his head is 524 E 6th St.

Joe Strummer of the Clash was photographed by Roberta Bayley by St George Ukranian Catholic Church (30 E 7th St, NY)  which you photographed.  

Bradbury Building (304 S Broadway, LA
in the geo-tagged photo you  are viewing 
was featured in Blade Runner (1982)

Story recommendations for parallel photo activities and check-ins proved interesting in comment threads. Viewers wanted story recommendations contextual to their interests and activities - contextual to their posts.

There was also surprisingly a very passionate geo-sleuthing community identifying addresses of iconic imagery and movie scenes who are like daily crossword puzzle experts. They are creating an emerging new genre of  geo-curation.

People in comments share facts, addresses, personal stories and imagery related to a location.  Marc Weiner was identified as the mime with Robin Williams above by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Geo-tags  map where creative heat in history happened.

Most images taken in history are notable. Most stories addressed in history are notable. A "geo-tag" can be seen as a highlighter for notable moments.

There can be hundreds of notifications for a great geo-tagged post of the day. The only problem is...maps do not allow for threads or notifications, which are the most used functions on the internet. Notifications and threads almost seem essential for traditional crisis mapping to get updates.

Crisis map 24 hours after Haiti earthquake used to save lives. 

Maps and GPS are set up more for drivers going from A to B instead of conveying geo-spatial information live. Maps do not accommodate  narratives (threads) and vast community dialogue. In the narrative space, users need a much quicker way to "jump to" the next point of interest and explore related stories and places.

The feedback we got is users want a new kind of map illustrated with notable media as opposed to stock graphics, places and roads illustrated.

A navigation system and visual presentation are needed enable speed and fresh content for a user's taste.  Recommended content triggers are needed based on a user's tastes and activities. Threads for a pin (and a "like" pin button) are needed to activate geo-notifications. Notifications today are the key driver of media browsing.

The mapping industry, however, is primarily focused on how to improve maps and their aesthetics. The industry is missing the boat on how to improve geo-spatial browsing.

Maps were not originally suited for media browsing. It follows that any improvement made to a map will still stay within the boundaries of a map. It's hard to imagine how so much earth scrolling will be viable for rapid media browsing.

Viewers need to "jump" from point a to b (instead of scrolling) 

The scrolling through vast useless or random places first doesn't work well for an app and an impatient user on the go. In media browsing, navigation requires "jumping" to enable an instant way to get from one point of interest to another to allow for speedy exploration and discovery.

Today rich storytelling is only skimmed at best using a map. When one location like Madison Square Garden has 1000s of stories, only one story is shown on a map.

Random pin displays also increase odds of users leaving a map due to a lack of interest.

I find this neighborhood in Greenwich Villlage extremely interesting, but have no idea which pin  is interesting or what any pin represents.  I am lost as a browser.  

The headliners for you are not so clear. There is very little sorting in a map of stories.

Some developers are experimenting with geo-portals that allow you to jump from one related point of interest to another at warp speed to another part of the world. This is a step in the right direction. A narrative exploration needs to geographically skip places in between which have no relevance in a story arc. Related locations in a narrative need to be stitched together for jumping around.  And it is key to recommend a narrative of interest for a viewer.

Any app is competing against Instagram for viewer attention..anything slower will not do as Facebook (mobile) found out.  In Instagram, one scrolls from one point of interest to another rapidly in a feed.

Intersecting with someone you know, something you follow, some place related to your past,  something you find interesting or someone who shares an interest drives notifications.

It's about connections at a place, not maps.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Locative Art: Secrets Are The Roots of Cool

William Gibson who coined "cyperspace" has been very prescient, predicting where the internet will go. 

A few years back, he wrote a book called Spook Country (2007). A central theme was "locative art." Using a visor, you could see art exhibited on location. But it wasn't just any kind of art. You could see the past being exhibited  in the present.

The essence of locative art is sharing ghosts.

This was the inspiration behind enabling GPS while building the world's largest locative art atlas showing where art and innovation took place. 

In Gibson's Spook Country, at Viper Room (8852 Sunset, LA), at a locative art exhibit,  you could see where River Phoenix died outside, his body still there. His sister Rain Phoenix had tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  

Oct 31, 1993, Red Hot Chili Peppers Flea (Michael Blazary) was in an ambulance with River Phoenix from the Viper Room, where he collapsed outside, to Cedar Sinai Medical Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 23. 

Locative art can be expanded by 360 degree narratives with fast-forwarding (or rewinding). The pay phone where Joaquin Phoenix called 911 is still there today.  

You can add background tracks to augment a location. Viper Room owner Johnny Depp seen here with Johnny Cash and June Carter was inside when River Phoenix died on Halloween 1993 outside. Future Clueless (1995) star Alicia Silverstone was bartending that night.

You can add before-it happened background or after-it-happened evolution. Gangster Bugsy Siegel hung out here 1940s. Tom Waits helped re-develop the club. 

You can collage narratives in a fast-forward exhibit or rewind exhibit. This is John Travolta at Viper Room in Be Cool (2005)

Locative art is about creating an artview (movieview, musicview, photoview, storyview etc)  with many angles (and time stamps) instead of a stock streetview fixed in time.  In a wider view or different angle, locative artifacts may be used in the future by geo-sleuths to help identify and stitch other images nearby. This is a long shot of John Travolta in Be Cool (2005).

The Viper Room played the London Fog venue for Oliver Stone's The Doors (1991). The bar where Alicia Silverstone bartended the night River Phoenix died makes a cameo:

The stage last seen by River Phoenix where Red Hot Chili Peppers Flea was singing with Butthole Surfers Gibby Haynes is seen in The Doors (1991) with Val Kilmer:

Aerial angles from The Doors (1991):

Perhaps a table experience River Phoenix last had or saw can be seen in this Valley Girl (1983) scene with Nicholas Cage and Deborah Foreman at Viper Room:

In Be Cool (2005), Vince Vaughan sits with The Rock at Viper Room VIP booth.

 Re-creating a vibe is part of locative art. This is the album cover for The Sweet's Desolation Boulevard (1974), which featured Ballroom Blitz, outside Viper Room.

Sharing then and now images shows evolution in locative art. Meaningless images and B Movies become meaningful offering context in locative art. Movies chronicle locative artifacts. This is the stage at Viper Room in Valley Girl (1983):

Bruce Springsteen once played an impromptu show here.

Locative art can be disguised and dressed up in movie sets. There are diverse ways of collaging or stitching threads in locative art.  This is Viper Room in the opening credits of Entourage:

In locative art, you can map thoughts for others to see there:

In locative art, you can also stitch related "ancillary" locations.  The night River Phoenix  died Oct 31, 1993, he was staying at Hotel Nikko (465 S La Cienega Blvd), now SLS Hotel (seen below), with girlfriend Samantha Mathis. Locative art can connect to a biography thread by recent locations. You can follow the actual course of history.

In locative art, you can  also "jump" to a new spot by clicking a profile tag.  This is River Phoenix escaping death in Stand By Me (1986)  about to jump off Lake Britton Bridge (Eagle Mountain Lane, Burney, CA):

You can also jump to other stories at the same location. Tommy Lee Jones of Motley Crue was convicted of battery after he pushed Henry Tappler at Viper Room who tried to take a photo of his wife Pamela Anderson Sep 26, 1996.

You may wish to follow a story of your friend or your hero here.  Others who were here include: Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Marie Presley, Jared Leto, Chistina Applegate, Angelina Jolie, Tobey Maguire, Leonard DiCaprio, Counting Crows Adam Duritz (who bartended here), Nicole Eggert, Mick Jagger, Uma Thurman, Courtney Love, Tom Hanks, Drew Barrymore, Rosanna Arquette, Oasis, Wallflowers, Pussycat Dolls, Gwen Stefani, Cameron Diaz, Christina Aguilera, Sean Penn, Tom Petty, Juliette Lewis, Dwight Yokum, Mick Fleetwood, Joan Osbourne, Michael Keaton, Ellen DeGeneres, Anne Heche, Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, Chris Rock, Go Gos, Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), John Mayer, Matchbox 20, Green Day, Billy Idol, Sheryl Crow, Everclear, and Run–D.M.C.

Profile tags profile a neighborhood and its tastes. People and titles for works of art define neighborhood traits  Greenwich Village had the highest density of writers, people on Time magazine covers, Nobel Prize winners and Pulitzer winners.

Locative networks follow the tastes of trailblazers and where  their history connects with places. They show where you cross paths with history.  What gets creatively produced at places defines the dna of a locative network.

It's a matter of time when locative offers along a user's dotted path will replace meaningless ads with stories and opportunities. A more human dialogue.

Locative threading gives a viewer a perspective the news, social media, maps and history cannot give.  The perspective offers new dimensions for understanding and a unique sensual experience.

This is 9 Jones (New York) today, on an album cover for The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963) and in a fictional re-creation in Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky (2001):

Each locative artist usually has a unique style for identifying locations and displaying locative art. Bob Egan at PopspotsNYC  uses a lot of geometry, a collage of old photos, and geo-spatial patterns in architecture.  That helped him find this wall at Mercantile Building (Plum and MLK Rd, Macon, GA) in an empty lot  (now a parking lot) where a hotel burned down. The Allman Brothers gave a clue it was geometrically visible from Capricorn Studios (548 MLK Rd). Jim Marshall re-shot the cover for Allman Brothers At Fillmore East (1971) here.  Locative Art can blend or super-impose then and now...or then and later in the past. Timelines merge in locative art.

Locative media  is an illustrative platform that jumps from one relevant artifact to another for exploration - indexed at a spot. Stories are searchable by address.