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July 21, 2008

Care to share your location?

INTERNATIONAL – How connected are you and to what degree do you want be? In today’s fast paced highly connected mobile world and the breathless evolution of location-based services (LBS) it’s not such a simple question anymore, raising some important social issues along the way.

The idea of being connected 24/7 and people knowing your exact location is the basis of very interesting recent article by Nokia Conversations’ favourite mobile anthropologist Jan Chipcase. Jan recently posted his thoughts on the matter at New Media Age asking if the days of disconnecting and complete anonymity are under threat from the next generation of LBS and whether or not it will become impossible to ‘opt out’ of this technology revolution as it becomes part of our social fabric.

As Jan points out, for some of us “fully disconnecting is no longer a viable option, or at the very least a deeply discomforting one, so ingrained are communication technologies in our daily life.”

So to what level do we want to become visible? The notion of now sharing your position with people can be a tad sinister for some of us, a point we touched on in a recent post about Nokia Chat and the importance of trust and openness when interacting with this new breed of context-aware application. This new instant messaging micro app now comes with GPS-based features so you can find out where someone is before initiating a conversation and interacting. And it perfectly highlights Jan comments about how far our willingness to share will stretch:

“The smarter question probes what we’re happy to share, with whom and in what context. It’s through the process of asking these questions that we get to debate, re-evaluate and rediscover what’s important for ourselves and for the society in which we live.” Jan Chipchase

For some of us the days of slipping out to your corner café to get away from work, the spouse, friends or the world could be numbered. It begs the question of how far and to what extent we want this to happen. If we still have ultimate control is it simply a matter of how we manage our ‘visibility’ or is it more complicated than that? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Photo from Aurimas Rimsa