Tag Archives: cartography

Outside the media: the geofenced future of advertising

Geolocation + smartphones + permission marketing – [old media channels] = ?

The campaign was created by Placecast, a location-based mobile ad company in San Francisco. It uses a practice called geo-fencing, which draws a virtual perimeter around a particular location. When someone steps into the geo-fenced area, a text message is sent, but only if consumers have opted in to receive messages.


Placecast created 1,000 geo-fences in and around New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Boston, cities where the North Face has many stores and areas that get a lot of snow or rain, so the company can tailor its messages to the weather. In urban areas, the fences are up to half a mile around stores, and in suburban areas they are up to a mile around stores.

Stowe Boyd reckons it’ll stick, and I’m inclined to agree.

It is going to be huge, especially with young people who text preferentially over talking on their phones. And of course, the retailers will pay for the messages.

And even better than come-ons like these will be the coupons. I am driving past the local Giant supermaket, and I get a text message with an attachment: 2 coupons for brands that I have registered at the Giant website. […]

But what Miller completely forgets to mention is that this is direct advertising, like direct mail was. This will end run the media companies who have made their bread and butter from advertising and coupons. If Domino’s can text me a code to get two pizzas half off today, why would the[y] advertise in the local paper?

If the future of advertising is direct and opt-in, through mobile devices to the consumer, the media lose the support of retail and local advertisers.

Yes, consumers still need to learn about PF Chiangs in the first place, but that is much more likely to be a direct experience, too, like going there with friends and then signing up for text-based promotions because it’s mentioned on the menu, or a friend uses a coupon or discount code.

The future of advertising is moving outside of media, and that’s another nail in the coffin for traditional print media.

And of course, there’ll be ways to game the locational ads system, too; step beyond the text message coupons and into mobile map apps, and suddenly there’s an incentive not to send you by the shortest route, but by the most lucrative – a brainwave courtesy of Jan Chipchase, caught in traffic in Virginia:

… the result I suspect of a sat-nav that decided that every possible road-works was a Point of Interest. Which might sound a bit far fetched today, until you consider that someone somewhere is drawing on ever more reams of data to serve up your your route – and someone else somewhere else is using every tool in their disposable to cajole individuals of interest past places ‘of interest’.

When the company pitching you advertising *also* calculates the most ‘efficient’ route to take from A to B you need to ask the criteria by wh[ich] efficiency is measured. And keep asking – the answer will likely change with the ebb and flow of financial results.

Of course, you could always turn off your phone, foregoing the navigational assistance in exchange for freedom from interstitial marketing. But then there’s a 93% chance that your route will be guessed by analysis of your previous movements, so you might as well leave it on and hope for a good open-source ad-blocker app…

… though this is almost certainly more worth worrying about than geolocational robbery crews.

Required reading: mapping the favela

favela housing, Rio de JanieroVia Chairman Bruce, here’s some required reading for anyone writing near-future fiction that involves a favela as a setting… and given the way the world is becoming urbanised, a near-future story that doesn’t feature a favela can probably be considered to have something missing from it! It’s an article from 2008 in the Harvard Design Magazine, titled “Resisting Representation: the Informal Geographies of Rio de Janiero, and it’s well worth the half hour or so it’ll take you to read it. Here’s a brief sample:

Rio de Janeiro is a city with a population of just over six million in its central urban areas, of which, according to officials, an estimated 20% are residents of favelas. These favelas vary enormously in size and character. These urban islands, like those of the earth’s waters, have formed according to several genealogies and geologies. Some, like continental islands, share a history and underlying structure with those around them, as if they have collectively broken off from a land mass. Others, like volcanic islands, seem to develop independently and suddenly from more isolated and turbulent forces. Still other favelas, like coral atolls, build slowly on an underlying urban structure. These metaphors show how favelas differ in their relationship to their surroundings—their seemingly insular status belies the fact that submerged structures tie them to the city.

Read on for more details about the utilities and transport infrastructures that enable favelas to exist, and the socioeconomic pressures that ensure they keep growing and multiplying in spite of all attempts to curb the expansion. [image by anthony_goto]

And as an added bonus, here’s a game-changing technology to drop into your fictional favela – Contraptor is the name of both an organisation and the open-source rapid prototyping system it has designed and built. Like a more sturdy and diverse answer to the RepRap, in other words – an affordable way to put the means of production into the hands of pretty much anyone with a few hundred dollars and an internet connection [via Fabbaloo]. You’ve got your setting, you’ve got your novum – and you’ve got a thousand stories waiting to be written.

The map is not the territory, redux – Argleton, the village that doesn’t exist

As useful as it is to have easy access to digital maps of the world, they throw up some odd anomalies from time to time… like this one from Lancashire, here in the UK. Google’s maps of the area show a small village called Argleton, not far from Ormskirk. The thing is, there’s no such village.

The jury is still out on the cause of this cartographic aberration: the copyfight lobby suspects it’s a deliberate mistake planted in the mapping data by an organisation  keen to catch out those who reuse it without permission (much in the way that the Royal Mail salts its postcode databases with fake addresses so it can detect unlicensed use), but Occam’s Razor suggests it’s more likely a mistyped version of the nearby village of Aughton, or some other sort of data glitch that sneaked its way into the data. These things happen, after all, especially when you pay low hourly rates to large numbers of data entry monkeys… I know, I’ve been one.

But think for a moment – as digital maps become the norm (and given the price the Ordnance Survey charge for theirs, it’s not going to take very long for that to happen on this side of the pond), will they become considered to be authoritative, even though their accuracy may not merit that authority? After all, people trust their sat-navs to such a ridiculous degree that they’ll drive down roads that pure common sense would suggest aren’t safe or worth travelling… it’s like an extension of the unfounded trust that some folk have of everything they see on television. If Google says it’s there, then there it is, right?

Adventuring a little further into the realms of participatory geography, the ability to overlay your own data on top of a basic map could allow groups and collectives to remap and rename places as they chose. Don’t like the political or historical resonances of your local street names? Then choose new ones. Want to differentiate the parts of town that you haunt from the rest of the metropolis? Draw your borders, share your maps, reclaim your city. Once augmented reality becomes ubiquitous (which surely isn’t going to take very long), it’s pretty much game over for conventional consensus geography… and the political repercussions of that are going to be interesting to watch.

Stuff you can’t see on Google Maps

As the title says: 51 things you can’t see on Google Maps, via Bruce Schneier. No prizes for guessing that most of them are military installations or government-sponsored institutions.

In a decade’s time, will there be more things on this list, or less? Will the list vary according to which nation-state you make your search from? Will there be a ‘black’ maps service that unfuzzes the obscured areas, if you know how to find it (and if there isn’t already)?

The Live Piracy Map

The ICC’s Live Piracy Map does exactly what its name suggests – it collates reports of modern piracy (the ocean-going sort, not kids using peer-to-peer networks), and plots them out as a Google Maps layer:

screenshot from Live Piracy Map

What’s interesting to me (as someone who works in maritime history) is how some of the hotspots are comparatively new, but others are almost as old as ocean-going commerce itself – a reminder that geography remains unconquered by technological progress, at least as far as supply chains of physical goods are concerned. [story and screenshot via the indispensable BLDGBLOG]

It also suggests that Sven’s armed cruise ship story wasn’t quite as implausible as some seemed to feel…