Place is no longer a brackdrop for our information seeking, creation, and sharing. As I have blogged about there are multiple location-based mobile apps. Such apps enable information to be customized based on a user’s geographic position. Various commercial applications and research projects have shown users value geographic relevance in their information seeking scenarios.
For location-based services to function, three components must be in place: 1) the ability to discern a mobile user’s location 2) the ability to discern the geographic footprint of desired resources 3) the ability to determine the geographic relevance of resources to the user's query (e.g. proximity).
Documents and texts from fiction to non-fiction are rich with geographic references whether as subject, setting, or - in all cases - the location of the publication or production. But the geographic details of most information is not explicitly stated - or if it is stated, it is not done so in a manner that is ideal for location-based services.
To make the geographic footprint (i.e. the location on Earth that a document references) explicit, georeferencing presents an optimal solution. Methods such as a keyword or title search, for instance, may not provide sufficient detail. Place names found in text may be ambiguous, antiquated, vague, overly broad, or implied (e.g. the capital of Canada). I believe that georeferencing is therefore essential for location-based services.
Georeferencing is the ability to relate geographic location to information. This may come from a textual reference to place in the body of a document or as a geospatial metadata. Georeferencing can be performed through automation or human effort by information professionals or users.
The online service Flickr offers both types and is a leading source of georeferenced data on the Web. Photographs can be automatically georeferenced through metadata captured by users' digital cameras or smartphone cameras. Additionally, Flickr users can georeference their photographs by adding a place name tag to their photograph or by using a map interface provided to plot the geographic coordinates.
Information professionals can manually georeference information resources adding relevant longitude and latitude metadata, yet this neither sufficiently scales nor does it captures people’s nuanced understandings of place. Existing commercial applications such as Foursquare, Facebook Places, and Gowalla offer a model of collaborative, social systems and interfaces that facilitate large-scale georeferencing.
So as one of my research areas, I'm wondering if such social model would work for digital information sources? This could apply not only to digital libraries or archives but also newspapers, Wikipedia, etc? Folksonomies have proven effective for generating this similar metadata? Would it work for georeferencing?