Nokia Open Lab Pt 2 – the geo-location workshop.

Steve Lawson and Phil Campbell at Nokia Open Lab, by http://www.flickr.com/photos/ekaiSo the format of the Friday was intro, followed by four sessions –

  • Join the Community.
  • Join the Journey
  • Join the Fun
  • Join and Collaborate.

Each session had a ‘facilitator’ who did a lil’ intro spiel and the set-up to the group time. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I’ve no idea how the first session went, as I slept straight through it! I’d set my alarm early, but after getting to bed late the night before, struggling to get to sleep even then, I managed to miss it. The last 10 minutes of the discussion were interesting, but I can’t really comment further.

So the first full session I was in was Join the Journey – thinking about location-based services, concepts and uses. What was most interesting was how few people in this group of early adopting tech-pimped-out uber-geeks were regularly using geo-services other than geo-tagging flickr photos and using SatNav to not get lost (as one person commented, ours is the last generation that will ever get lost – more on that in a bit…)

This was the first point at which the blue-sky techno-utopians and the more cautious person-centred practo-geeks divided – the utopians were talking about the possibility of RFIDing everything from you fridge to your car keys, embedding chips, tracking your kids – loads of stuff that sounded like a sci-fi writer in the late 60s describing the year 2001. Some of it clearly already happening.

On the flip side, you had every Brit there freaking out at the civil liberties implications of all this, given that we’re already the most surveilled nation on earth, and wondering about how effective measures to limit access to the tracking data could be.

It was also the first point at which I threw in the idea that maybe removing trouble, problems, obstacles and the like from the mundane might not be a good thing. I slightly facetiously said ‘but what about all the good serendipitous stuff that can happen when you lose your keys?’ or words to that effect. It was a serious point, but I didn’t really follow it up til Adam Greenfield’s excellent session the next day.

So some cool discussion, some great ideas that got lost in the mass of un-filtered un-sorted suggestions, and for me the first chance to get a handle on where people were coming from… I don’t think I knew anyone in my group at this point, so was slightly unsure how to pitch my usual mixture of ‘things that are possible useful to the discussion’ and ‘things that are clearly random bollocks but might be either funny or illuminating in their absurdity… or perhaps best ignored’.

So one thing that we didn’t get onto was the use of Geo-locational services for musicians. The uses are HUGE. Most of them musicians I know have already got SatNavs – getting lost on the way to a gig is too costly a mistake for them to miss the chance to avoid it.

But the ability to map a tour, plot any media captured on it onto it, group crowd-sourced flickr-photos by location and date, and even to network a street team by geo-tagged data are the stuff that every band in the world should be jumping on. It’s the kind of stuff that a company like Nokia ought to be all over, given the branding potential, and the way they can produce THE ubiquitous device for such a service. (more on this in an N95 for musicians review, coming soon!) Some of the stuff that came up in the group was really inspirational with regard to seeing the possibilities of all this. For some of what’s possible, and what’s coming, check out Sportstracker and Nokiavine.

Some bands are already using it, like the NIN stunt with the geo-cached tickets.

Location based services don’t appear to be the kind of thing that in and of themselves will make millions for anyone beyond TomTom and Garmin. But they are things that musicians and media producers can use to filter their own or their audiences content by location, and that can make it more interesting, more relevant and more sexy. All fine qualities.

Sessions 3 and 4 coming soon…