The Geospacial Web.
The prefix Geo comes from the Greek and means Earth. It has spawned an incredible variety of Earthlings, including Geometry, Geography and Geology. I like the sound of Geognosy, which means a knowledge of the structure of the earth, but the one that I like the best is Geomancy, the art of divination by means of lines and figures.
This week the Economist brings us a story “The world on your desktop” about the Geoweb and the associated Geobrowsers, Neogeographers and possible future menaces of Geohacking and Geospam. Virtual maps are combined with other sources of data to create Mash-ups (See previous blog item) and the road to Web 3.0 is paved with new tagging protocols to ensure interoperability of Geodata.
Wikipedia as usual is quick off the mark with an item on the Geoweb that offers some history on the origins of the concept of a Geospacial Web, as well as some information about underlying technologies, for instance Virtual Globes, GIS and AJAX.
There is a GeoWeb 2007 Conference which is subtitled “From Mashups to Infrastructure”, which gives a feel for the scope of the term and the grandiloquent predictions of its future significance.
According to the Economist we can at present via Google Earth see images of Chinese nuclear submarines. But not only the big and dangerous feature on this new Big Brother Web. Beware, because Google’s special cameras may catch you at just that time and place where you do not want to be Positioned for Eternity. In the future it is predicted that the technology may become even more intimate – the use of satellite-positioning technology in your mobile phone could even lead to a form of extrasensory information awareness.
This last sentence made me feel very tired. Tired of travelling, tired of technology, tired of new protocols. The latest markup language, KML, Keyhole Markup Language, (offspring of XML naturally) I feel to be aptly named. Although it originated from the name of some reconnaissance satellites it appears that the new Keyhole may involve not just viewing the infrastructure of the earth but also some voyeurism of a rather intimate kind on each and every one of us.
Since last writing this blog I have travelled to Cambridge to teach, I have travelled back to my home by the sea in the east of Scotland, I have travelled to Glencoe in the west of Scotland, and I have walked on the Silver Sands near Arisaig. In Glencoe I slept in the pouring rain in a tent and awoke to see some amazing mountains disappearing into the clouds above me. As I now look up more about these mountains I realize that I am indulging in the vice of Geognosy but I feel compelled to share it with you. Lochaber, which includes Glencoe, has an outstanding Geology and Geomorphology and has recently become a European Geopark. Oh, drat, I forgot to ask for the Glencoe Geotrail leaflet. I suppose I was too busy pretending that I was young again, enjoying camping in the rain and being a long way away from any internet connection with the only Web that I had to worry about being one that might be spun out of gossamer around my head if some water weary spider should enter my tent. Or perhaps the mountain fairies might weave a GeoSpell to entrap all hapless campers who did not respect the fact that the mountains of Glencoe consist of some of the oldest volcanic strata in the world and were repositioned around 380 million years ago. Well, at least some things in the GeoWeb remain more or less still. How did Eliot put it? “At the still point of the turning world.” Be surrounded by mountains, I say, if you are to be Positioned for Eternity.
Web – see Webcaster