Social GIS

xkcd’s map of social networks

Social networking has changed the way we interact with people. While many crib about how emotions and feelings are lost because of the ease at which people get in touch with each other, I suppose a similar mindset existed when they upgraded from pigeons to post, to the telegram or even the telephone. Time has always won over or trodden over those who refuse to change with it, so it is wise to keep evolving. Back on topic, social networking has changed the way we use technology, and how those who use technology see technology.

The single most important buzzword in modern-day GIS is location. Your location defines the content that you are served online. Your location defines the way you interact with your friends. Your location is a deciding factor on where you will go have dinner tonight. If you’re smart enough to respect the power of social networks and location-based apps, chances are that you will not get lost any time in the near future.

Apps like Foursquare provide a friendly competition between friends and colleagues to see who rakes in the most check-ins and the most points. Waze gives you navigation information based on traffic reports that are crowd sourced. Google Latitude shows any friends that might be around you at this moment in time.

Unfortunately, many users do not realize that what they are using in their daily interaction with buddies is GIS at work. I still get puzzled stares from people when I tell them what I do for a living. Then I show them how they have already been using GIS in their day-to-day lives and their faces light up, much like how Buddha’s must have when he achieved enlightenment.

GIS has been a vital tool in many a different serious, high-brow scenarios and it always will. Now what it needs to do is get with the times, harness social networks and mingle with the common folk.

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