Local Web 2.0

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Juan Martín Prada:

"The structure of participatory media contents based on spatial annotation point to interesting signs that practices which “spatialize” information hold intense “socializing” potential, given that they involve the development of reciprocal awareness between persons and their surroundings, often based on belonging to common spatial contexts.

The Web has started to channel the collective desire to know more about the geographic spaces around us, the place where we live or that we pass through, as well as the persons who live or can be found around us. That desire has found one of its main sources of fulfilment in the participatory technologies of the social web, which provides the basis of what is called “local Web 2.0”. The significance of contextual knowledge is growing as the new connected society is constituted, as well as the possibilities opened up for developing a geographically localized collective memory.

The creation of these open maps includes geographic localization and its technologies in the life of the community that inhabits those spaces and places, and serves as a tool for activating specific types of communication and socialization in the community. Thus, many geobrowsers are designed specifically to create communities based on the physical proximity of their users, who share a common environment. Among the most interesting developments are the highly significant projects based on local wireless networks managed by their users.

Actually, even in this new geographic phase of the Web, activated by new geolocalization technologies, we are experiencing the lasting devaluation of public physical space, the continuous de-urbanization of real space. It was thought that this would be offset by the increasing urbanization of the global and (falsely) trans-border space of the networks.

In addition, as a particularly active part of the interweaving of digital production of sociality and coincidence in physical space, directly related to the “live” experience of a place, it is worth pointing out the rise of hyperlocal journalism, based on comments on news at the local community level, of interest precisely because of its ties to its users’ everyday environment. Closely related to this phenomenon, completely coinciding with it in the majority of cases, is place blogging, that is, the activity of blogs focused on events, news and people in a specific local area, such as a neighbourhood or small town. Several aggregators and search engines for place blogs have been put into operation, such as Outside.in, Place blogger and Peuplade. They are proof of a growing interest in exploring the socializing potentials inherent in the physical proximity of Web users and in the information generated and shared by persons who live in the same places.

There are many other emerging collective action practices, such as “Flash Mobs”, that consider their essential component or teleological culmination to be the congregation of persons in a particular place. This is yet another example of the increasingly forceful demand that the social should be built on the materiality of physical space, rather than being limited to the field of online interactions. Streets and squares should be reclaimed as communication media in and of themselves, reactivated as priority spaces for social interaction.

The set of artistic practices related to locative media (a term that can be defined as the representation and experience of a place through digital interfaces) can play an enormous role in the design of forms of social and political dissention, especially though the design of alternative forms of social and communicative interaction. The creative link between these new technologies and mass public protest events that began around the Reclaim the Streets movement are very promising. These critical practices are certainly the clearest reflections of the new tensions between the global and the local, the physical and the virtual." (ICD mailing list, January 2009)