An Ethnographic View of Monmouthpedia, World’s First Wikipedia Town


Monmouth is a historical town in Wales, within 2 miles (3.2 KM) of the border with England. Last year, in August, I decided to visit the town to understand the deployment of QRcodes in buildings with Wikipedia articles. Since I was studying locative media and were looking for potential case studies, I thought that would be worth seeing. I was in Lisbon, Portugal, for one month. So I flew from there to the international airport of Bristol, in the evening of July 31 2012.  From Bristol, I got a train to Newport, Wales. I spent the night there and in the morning I took a bus to Monmouth. On the bus, I noticed two young people had headphones on and were using smartphones. One of them was using a Samsung phone. However,throughout the whole journey, I noticed then that the Chinese brand HTC is very well used in the United Kingdom.  It seems like iPhones over there are not so pervasive as here in the United States.

After one hour on the bus, I arrived in Monmouth. I was eager to see the QRcodes, but I walked through downtown and went to the hotel, where I had a reservation. As soon as I checked in the hotel I introduced myself to the receptionist, a young woman in her twenties. I told her why I went to Monmouth by explaining that I was doing research about Monmouthpedia. Politely enough, she paid attention to what I was saying, but she had no idea what I was talking about. She was not aware of the deployment of QRcodes to access Wikipedia articles in historical buildings and commercial stores in the town, including the hotel where she was working. Having felt a bit embarrassed, she explained that she was not a local and had moved to the town recently.

My second interaction was with a sales assistant, in a store, also a young lady. Unlike the receptionist, she had heard of “Monmouthpedia”, but she never had tried it, because she did not have a smartphone to scan the codes. It is worth noting that this store is located in the main road of the downtown, where there are Cafés, restaurants and all sort of stores. On this street, the majority of stores had blue stickers of small QRcodes on their show windows. However, many of them were not visible. I talked to two employees of a drug store with a blue sticker of QRcodes. While one had no idea about the codes, the other had tried it and could see a value on it.

Drawing on my one week of observations and informal conversations I had with residents and tourists in Monmouth, I concluded that many people did not have a smartphone there. Some locals did not have even a mobile phone. An older woman said to me: “the mobile phone is the most unsocial thing I have seen…” Another woman said she was not interested in QRcodes because she was a local and knew everything about local places.

On the other hand,  I also concluded that kids are more willing to use these codes. According to a sales assistant of a shoes store, usually kids scan more the codes than adults. She also saw a group of Japanese tourists using the codes to learn more about places.

Types of QR Codes in Monmouth


I saw four types of manufactured QRcodes in Monmouth: 1) a glass sticker which is made of an adhesive blue plastic and is commonly stuck onto stores show windows, 2) a rectangular tile with a size of 12 cm X 22 cm, usually  stuck on historical/listed buildings, 3) a printed out on paper, used in the ShireHall, a listed building and also center of tourist information, and 4) QRcodes stuck on books, with additional information about the author.


1) Access: Many people do not own smartphones being unable to scan the codes. Moreover, free WiFi is not available. It is not very likely that tourists will use the roaming service just to scan a QRcode.

2) Visibility: Some QRcodes are not easily visible. I had to look carefully for many of them.

3) Context: Some of the QRcodes available are not created to convey context. They function simply as key words, offering definitions that assume most people already know. For instance, a bookstore has a QRcode with the words: “Book”, “Literature”, “Biography”, and “Fiction”.  Another example is a drug store that has codes that link to “perfume”, “ prescription”,  “personal care”, “superdrug”.

4) What should be tagged? Only local places? I noticed that international restaurants (e.g: Chinese, Indian) are not tagged with QRcodes, excepting an Italian Restaurant in the main street of downtown, I mentioned before.



What has been tagged

1) Historical/listed buildings, including schools, pubs, churches, libraries

2) Stores (e.g.: shoes, glasses, clothes, health food, real estate agent, butcher, bakeries)

3) Books at the municipal library

4) At Museums (piece of arts, small piece of papers).

5) Restaurants (e.g.: Italian cuisine, antipasto, pizza, pasta). Also the logic of keywords (Italian cuisine, welsh cuisine, seasonal food)

Liquid Research Proposal

gps_museumThe development of a consistent research proposal is key for the success of any PhD thesis. That is the process of choosing a topic, doing an exhaustive literature review, identifying gaps in the field, raising research questions, and finally selecting the right method to answer these questions. Anne Galloway – in the introduction of her dissertation entitled “A Brief History of Locative Media and Urban Computing” (2008) – says that a research proposal is a “warm-up stage”.

Based on my experience, I would say that it is through this process that a student becomes knowledgeable and confident about the chosen research topic. Thus, it is advisable to extend this warm-up stage for a good length of time. It is important to have feedback from different professors and colleagues from different universities, not only from supervisors, and to take courses in different fields in order to have a solid and extensive background.

Within eight months, I had to design three different research proposals, all in the scope of locative media. It happened because the first one was refuted by one of my advisors, the second was disrupted because one of the case studies – the hyperlocal service EveryBlock – was shut down, and finally the third was the one, which was presented to and accepted by the research committee. Rather than describing those proposals, I want to highlight what I learned from them and from the experience of the feeling of failure.

First of all, my experience illustrates the difficulties of doing research in the field of digital media, a world where everything is very liquid and transitory. On the one hand, this is positive because it facilitates one to be innovative. On the other hand, one needs to juggle with uncertainty. That is why there is a turn to the construction of prototypes and experiments in social sciences. It seems that there is a call to think in more suitable research methods to study digital media. By doing the literature review, I learned that the research in locative media, for example, is quite interdisciplinary, nevertheless, the empirical research is often undertaken by designers, architects, computer scientists or interdisciplinary groups.

Unlike those researchers, media scholars undertake qualitative studies such as cases studies, interviews, and ethnography. Therefore, the question is: Given that these digital services have a short lifespan, how can one come up with a good case study that keeps its relevance over time? In one of the conversations I had with a professor and expert in the scholarship of locative media, she posed me the following concern: “You have to think that your dissertation has to have an impact int the academic community when you finish it in two years. What if “Foursquare” (a potential case study for me) fades into inexistence in two years?” That was also the concern of my professor who refuted my first proposal. I had proposed to study two cases: the growing Monmouthpedia and the inexistent Manor. Both of them were cities, in which buildings had QRcodes with articles about their places where they were stuck, a phenomenon named “physical geotagging” (see my blog post “Geotagging of Physical Places“). The core of my proposal was to understand why many of locative media projects fails and why they are not reaching the tipping point.

By discussing this concern with a friend of mine, who is a professor in the engineering school, I learned with him that one possible response for this question is to invest in “fundamental research”, without any direct practical application or use in view. After all, there are blasts of new fields of research, that are absorbed by distinct other areas, which demands understanding from the start. For example, locative media ranges from new media arts to journalism.

Over time, I concluded that the three proposals were the bedrock of my dissertation, since they altogether were the source from where my current project germinated. Only now I recognize that, but I have to confess that for a long time I felt sorry for myself for having my first proposal refuted. It is obvious that was not an easy process, neither emotionally nor intellectually. However, I grew mature and stronger to come up with better ideas.

 Tips for people who are working on a research proposal:

1) In the beginning, you do not even know the terminologies of your field of research. Type all combinations of words and terms that come to your mind in the library databases search.

2) Once you have read many papers and books, and identified the experts in your field, try to reach them out. The best strategy is to attend conferences focused in your area of research, even if you do not have a paper to present. The experts will be there and you will be able to talk to them over lunch or coffee breaks. Don’t be shy!

3) Make a list of research questions and keep it in your purse or pocket. I know that sounds nerdy, but that is a good way to develop them into better ideas.

Geotagging of physical places

QRcode stuck on a bridge in the town of Monmouth
QRcode stuck on a bridge in the town of Monmouth

“Geotagging” or “mobile annotation” can be understood as the practice of attaching information to physical places, through new technologies of location (e.g.: QRcodes, NFC, RFID). Geotagging is just one of the categories of locative media, which has been used for arts, transparency government, mobile shopping, historical legacy and digital graffiti purposes. I will illustrate the possibility of digital layering the physical world with a real short story and then I will also present some cases of what has been developed in this field:

The physical world is ripe with information. In order to better understand this premise, one should imagine this scene: Michelle was an exchange student at The University of Texas at Austin, in the south of the United States. She used to live in the popular housing area for university students, West Campus, within walking distance of the university. Every day while commuting to campus she would wonder who lived in the big houses in this neighborhood. The houses seemed different to her, in the sense that they were big enough to house a big family, with beautiful and large gardens. For her, they looked as huge as White House. However, she never saw any family around any of them. Michelle kept this curiosity to herself for a couple of months. One day, in a conversation with a local Austin resident, who was a good friend of hers, she raised the subject about those buildings. Michelle asked her,  “What are those houses around my building? They are huge but I never seen any family around them”.  Her friend asked her if the houses had Greek letters – an icon of sororities and fraternities – on the facade. She did not even notice the pattern of Greek letters and she did not know how to respond.  After some exchanging of impressions, Michelle’s friend told her then that those buildings were fraternities and sororities, which are fraternal social organizations/residences for undergraduate students, something that didn’t exist in Michelle’s country culture and with which she was not familiar at all. She had no clue about them. Michelle’s story illustrates many aspects of the importance of physical geotagging as well as how people relate to their surroundings, including:

1) She was ignorant about the environment where she was living, as many people are.

2) The only way to access this kind information would be through social interaction (asking someone as she did)

3) This kind of information reflects the power of local knowledge.

If some of these houses were geotagged, we could imagine different results:

1) She could have learned about her surroundings, because her curiosity would drive her to look for the information on the spot, which could have enhanced her sense of place.

2) If this geotag was connected to social media, she could have read stories about people’s experiences about what means to live in a sorority or fraternity.

3) She would have an available channel to access local knowledge, as was never possible before.

One might say that this kind of information does not matter, because everyone knows what a sorority or fraternity is. The main point, however, of attaching information to places is about taking the story embodied in a building for passers-by who are curious to know more about their environment, while on the move.

This possibility, recognized as geotagging, along with other emerging tools within locative media field (tracing, tracking, mapping, barcoding), have triggered a number of questions regarding people’s sense of place and space, augmentation of the physical world and a refreshment of the concepts of “locality” and “proximity.”

Current Examples: A number of projects of physical geotagging have been emerging lately. Below are some of them:

1.  Manor City Hall (outside the greater Austin metropolitan area) deployed a project to tag information, through QRcodes, to landmarks and also physical objects, such as police cars, in order to provide local citizens with real-time information. The project was one of the pioneers in the US. The QRcodes were up until 2011, when one of the creators of the project left the city government and the codes were taken down.

2. Monmouthpedia: Monmouth, a town located in southeast of Wales, became the first location-based “Wikipedia town” to tag all notable places, people, and flora through the technology of QRcodes. Locals and tourists with smartphones are now able to scan barcodes at points of interest (the picture of this post) and have information about the landmark sent to their mobiles phones. Monmoutpedia enables the user to choose the information they want while standing in front of a location (e.g: a school, a church, a tree).

3.  The city of Klagenfurt, Austria, created a public library embedded in the physical real world. Stickers for NFC (Near Field Communication) and QRcodes were located all over the city and individuals can download the works that are in the public domain. The novelty of this project is the exploration of geotagging, after all the stickers have been placed in strategic locations that link to volumes that are related to the spot in which they can be found. For example, near the police station, readers can find the sticker for the killer, by Arthur Schnitzler.

4. Florida: Tampa Bay residents and visitors also can experience downtown Tampa’s unique architecture through a self-guided walking tour using QR codes. The tour was launched as part of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Institute of Architects‘ Archifest in October 2011. Twelve new sites were added in August this year, bringing the total to 23. The tour is free and both phone and tablet-friendly, making it attractive to people visiting downtown. Participants can start the tour by visiting Tour Tampa Bay Architecture, where they will find maps of the sites and pictures showing where the QR codes can be found. Some codes are obscure, whereas others stand out on windows and can be found while passing by. The website also includes historic sites in Ybor City and Hyde Park. Future plans include site enhancements such as professional videos to provide more information about the buildings.

5. New York: The City Council unanimously passed a bill Monday that requires every city agency that has inspection, permit, license or registration information online to post a QR code linking to it. Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the bill was created to complement open data laws requiring all city agencies to have that information online by 2016. Anyone with a smartphone would be able to scan the permit’s tag and instantly be taken to the agency’s website, which would display the data.

6. New York (Central Park): Agency Magma and NYC Parks and Recreation developed a campaign that made innovative use of QR Codes, allowing this Iconic location to present itself in today’s marketplace. The campaign involved turning the park into an interactive board game.

7. Australia: Tourists using the quick response codes will be guided through 37 of The Rocks’ historic sites. Sydney’s oldest district, The Rocks, receives a significant amount of tourism every year, and the government of New South Wales supported the development of the interactive tours to help to enhance the experience and make it more informative than any physical plaques or signage would allow. The Rocks now feature a QR code at each of the 37 locations.


Why should news organizations care about location-based services?

Reference of this essay: Silva, Cláudia. “Why Should News Organizations Care about Location-Based Services?” Mapping Locative Media. April 16, 2012. Web. Date of Access.


Nowadays, innovation may be a product, which companies must be aware of and produce as any core product that the company offers (Briggs, 2012: p.126). As Mark Briggs states in his book “Entrepreneurial Journalism”, in the digital era every kind of business, including big and small news companies should innovate in order to survive in the competitive new digital scenario. In fact, news industries have embarked on a number of innovation projects, such as social networking, mobile media, games, multimedia feature and partnership with other media (Lowrey, W. 2011: p.65), even though this attempt to innovate is criticized by many scholars (Boczkowski, 2010; Domingo, 2008). For instance, Boczkowski argues that this attempt is “reactive” in a statement made that “quite often newspapers acted only after it seemed evident to key decision makers that relevant technical and social developments had reasonable chance of taking hold, rather than proactively trying to make advantage of them earlier in the game” (Boczkowski 2004, p. 48 quoted by Boczkowski, 2010, p.32). Regardless, innovation has become a crucial asset to the survival of the media industry (Domingo, D. & Schimtz, A. 2010). Much research has been done relating to technology as a source of innovation for news industries. (Boczkowski, P. 2010; Hollifield, C.Ann & Mierzjewska, Bozena I. 2006; Domingo& Schmitz, 2010.) In this sense, “technological innovation has always been a key aspect in the adaptation of journalism to new social and market trends, but it has seldom been the focus of research until the advent of online journalism” (Cottle and Ashton, 1999 quoted by Domigo& Schmitz, 2010. See also Paulussen et al. 2011). The idea of “innovation” has also been frequently surrounded by the concept of disruptive technologies. In the scope of journalism the word itself has been widely used in titles, headlines and articles. defines the word “disruptive” as the cause of disruption, something that cause something to break into pieces. Not only is “disruptive” a word, it is also a concept that was developed by Professor Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School (1997). Therefore, “disruptive technology” is a business concept which news industries and journalists must understand in order to be proactively innovative. Day & Shoemaker (2000, quoted by Mierzjewska, B., Hollifield, C.Ann, 2006) conceptualized technology as disruptive and non-disruptive arguing that organizations approach technology adoption and innovation management differently depending on the disruptive or non-disruptive potential of the technology or innovation in question. For Mierzjewska et al. (2006) “technology and innovation reflects the fact that the media are one of a handful of industries facing the emergence of potentially “disruptive technology”. Day&Shoemaker (2000, p.2 quoted by Mierzjewska et al. 2006) defines disruptive technologies as “science-based innovations that have the potential to create a new industry or transform and existing one”. “The Internet, HDTV, and interactive television devices are examples of types of communication technologies that, when they emerge have the potential to disrupt the underlying business models of existing sectors of media industry”. This illustrates the importance the term and how much the news industries should care about it. Unlike Day & Shoemaker, Christensen defines technologies as sustaining and disruptive. While sustaining technologies mean those technologies which “improve the performance of established products, along the dimensions of performance that mainstream customers in major markets have historically valued”, disruptive technologies “result in worse product performance, at least in the near-term”. (p. XV). Furthermore, the products based on disruptive technologies initially only satisfy a niche market segment, which have lower performance on dimensions relevant to the mainstream market segment but have higher performance on dimensions valued by remote or emerging markets. Besides, these products are “typically cheaper, simpler, smaller, and more convenient to use” (Christensen, 1997: xv). Christensen argues that because a disruptive technology initially only serves a small, low, margin market, it is ignored by incumbents that are serving more attractive segments. For the purpose of this essay, I aim to present some of main characteristics, definitions and backgrounds of location-based services with the concept of disruptive technologies in mind, and some cases of how this innovation has been applied to journalism.

1.Location-based services (LBS)

The definition of location-based services is simply technological and functional, being focused only in the function of delivering information according to the location of the device and user (see Gartner et al., 2007). For this essay, I am using the following definition of Chen (2010, p.1): “a location-based service (LBS) is an information service that can be accessed by mobile devices through a mobile network, and which exploit the location of the mobile device”. Location-based services (LBS) have been widely studied since 2000 in the field of mobile business and wireless infrastructure. At that time many applications based on cell phones’ physical location were expected to be “the saviour of wireless data services, with research companies valuing the LBS market at tens of billions”. The expectation was so high that some analysts and industry pundits proclaimed it the next “Killer app”, which means that the industry was expecting the increasing of sales because of LBS. After two years, few experts would claim that LBS had this power (Sweeting, C. 2005. p. 87), due to its slow the rate of adoption. After all, only few countries, such as Japan, had a vast majority of mobile phones with built-in GPS. Since then, LBS have been a niche, considered by some scholars a disruptive technology (Sweeting, C. 2005. p. 87; Evans, 2003: p 126). As disruptive technology, LBS are now promoted as the “first time that peoples’ physical locations can be used as data for applications”, which has the potential to affect our daily lives and the way we receive and exchange information. In 2007, LBS were legitimate as a growing new and interdisciplinary field of research with the releasing of the first edition of a journal of location-based services concurrent with the start of the first symposium on LBS which took place in China. In this sense, one can say that 2007 was a key year for LBS, since the release of smartphones, such as iPhone, mobile high-speed Internet connectivity through 3G and WiFi also brought new possibilities to the industry. After all, these technologies enable users to continuously capture, create, upload and share geo-referenced content (Bilandzic, M. & Foth, M. 2011. p. 66). For instance, Gowalla, one of the first social networks based on location, was also launched in 2007.

1.1. Locative Media

Location-based services has been appropriated and explored in creative ways by artists, journalists, photographers and news organizations. In this sense, in 2003, Karlis Kalnis proposed the term locative media to differentiate the creative usage of location-based services from the institutional use of it (Lemos, 2007, p.2). Kalnis and Tuters in 2003 selected “locative media” as a title for an international workshop of artists and researches (International Workshop ‘Locative Media’, “aiming to explore how wireless and location-based networking affects peoples’s notions of space and social organisation within space” (Bilandzic, M. & Foth, M. 2011). After this workshop, the term defines “media that blurred the barrier between the physical and the virtual world, in particular mobile media that augments people’s experiences in real places through relevant geo-tagged information from the Internet (Espinoza et al., 2001; Kjelskov and Paay, 2005; Lancaster University, 1999; Proboscis, 2003 quoted by Bilandzic, M. & Foth, M. 2011). Lemos (2011) defines Locative Media as a set of technologies and process of info-communication which content is tied to a specific location. The advent of GPS enable phones is also referred as the base of this term (Bilandzic, M. & Foth, M. 2011).

2.LBS and Social Media

The most successful use of LBS has been in the field of social media. Researchers have been referring to this new use of social media as location-sharing systems/applications. Cranshaw et al. (2011) categorizes location sharing applications as purpose-driven, where people explicitly request another person’s current location” and “social –driven, where people broadcast their location to ‘friends’ in their social networks. In this sense, it is important to note that LBS have been categorized also as a service enabled by mobile computing (see Evans, 2003; Canali et al., 2009; Hansen et al, 2011). Goggin (2011) defines location sharing applications as “mobile social software”. For this author, those services represent two important shifts – from desktop to mobile computing, and from individual to social software. These applications make possible informal contact among people in the same proximity, whether friends, friends of friends, strangers or colleagues capitalizing on serendipity (Eagle 2004; Eagle & Pentland 2005 quoted by Goggin 2011, p. 118). One of the first mobile social software programs was the Japanese Lovegety, released in 1998, as an oval device with three buttons which the user sets according to the kind of activity she or he has in mind: “talk”, “Karaoke” and “get2”. When the holder selected a mode, the device searched for Lovegety holders of the opposite sex in a five meter radius (Goggin, 2011, p. 118). In addition, according to Goggin (2011) the first mobile social software in the US was Dodgeball, released in 2000, which allowed a user to broadcast her or his information to others in their location, trough an early WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) application. Even before the launch of smartphones, these applications represented a trend. “Dodgeball was but one of many mobile social social software applications that were to follow (ibid: p.119). However, at this stage many of the enterprises and applications spearheading mobile social software have not survived. Dodgeball was the predecessor to Foursquare, the location-sharing system that was launched in 2009 and currently has 15 million of users in the US and abroad (Scarafile, 2012).

3.LBS and Journalism

With the increasing diffusion of GPS and Internet-enabled smartphones, many location-based services are being implemented by entrepreneurs. In the field of journalism, mainstream news organizations have been keeping an eye on location-based experiments. Location has been seen as a trend and evokes the classical idea of the five W’s, in which “where” from the fourth position becomes the first W (Briggs, 2012). The New York Times, The Financial Times and The wall Street Journal and Canada’s Postmedia Network are among the early adopters of this service (Currie, 2011. p.1) experimenting with Foursquare by distributing news and seeking to engage readers. According to Currie, these newspapers have been part of a growing number of news outlets trying to crack the triumvirate of journalism, location, and social media. For this author, these three elements should be a natural fit: News organizations produce a stream of content filled with geographic addresses. Mobile phone users are increasingly buying smartphones and using them to access news and furthermore, news consumption is increasingly becoming a shared social experience. On this direction, research in location-based news services also has emerged (see Chen, Chih-Ming. 2010). Chen (2010) states the location- based services (LBS) on mobile devices can convey location related information to individual users, thus helping users to obtain helpful and adaptative information, which can facilitate individual decision-making. There are three ways of experimenting with location-based news. The first is through social networks based on location, such as Foursquare. Journalists have noted that Foursquare can be an important tool for news organizations in many different ways: 1)Promise of targeting news distribution; 2) Finding on-the-scene human sources to interview during breaking news events; 3) Finding story ideas and building social capital with users (Snow & Lavrusik, 2010; Jenkins, 2010; Bradshaw, 2010 quoted by Currie, 2011). Second, by through native mobile apps which are focusing on location-based news. Some examples of location-based news apps are (1) Meporter, (2) Tap in Bay Area and (3) hereMe!. (1) Meporter describes their service as a location-based news app that enables the user to write, photography, and videotape his/her local news as it breaks. Readers can share location, comment on stories and check in as eyewitnesses. To validate the contributions, Meporter allows posting local news and readers to post comments, only if they are on location. Meporter has news categories: Announcements, Business, Classifieds, Crime, Events, Health, LifeStyle, NightLife, News, Op-Ed, News, Politics, Estate, Science, Sports, Tech, Traffic, Travel, and Weather. The app allows you to create a Meporter profile that others can view. While anyone online can follow your stories, only people in your neighbourhood can comment on your breaking news. The app was released in May 2011 . (2) Tap in Bay Area is an app iPad of hyperlocal journalism in the San Francisco Bay Area. Besides having multimedia producers, users can contribute reviews, recommendations and share. The app is not free but has a free trial version. Applying gamification to its business model, users can earn points for writing comments, sharing content, clicking on Ads or taking actions that help improve the community. Users who earn enough points could redeem them for free access or other rewards. The app was released in July 2011 . 3) hereMe! also describes its service as location-based, story-telling, grassroots reporter’s tool, designed for local micro-reporting that complements an increasingly social media landscape. Their aim is making the consumer a news producer. In this sense, the user/reporter can produce location-based stories by adding reports with attached video, audio, picture, URLs and #tags. The users can manage their account through a profile. It is possible to sign in through Facebook. Another way of engaging with this service is using location-based feeds to view and filter reports and receive alerts when new reports or replies are filed. A feed, in this sense, is defined by this service as regions of interest by individual users (personal feeds) or by the community (featured, public feeds). Feed management is intuitive and map-based. By pinching to zoom in or out the users can adjust the size of their interest. Finally, the last is through filtering, as GoogleNews is doing with “News near your”. According to the official blog of GoogleNews, the service was released in May 2011. “News near your” is a local section of Google News for mobile devices, which allows the users to find local news on their smartphones, according to their location.

4. Discussion

At the beginning of this essay, innovation and its importance to news organizations and how disruptive technologies are related to that was discussed. Location-based services have become a pervasive technology and have a high potential of disruption, because as our form of exchanging information in public spaces and in urban places changes, demand will increase for information “in loco”, to a specific location. In the US, location-based social networks are still a niche, since only 5% of Americans use location-based apps. On the other hand, GPS, the technology which has been enabling LBS so far, is built into, almost everyone nowadays. However, another technology which enables location-based service is NFC (Near Field Communication) which is built into some Android phones. NFC is as emerging technology for mobile interaction with everyday objects. It is a wireless technology for exchanging data over short distances, similar to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) but targeted at mobile devices. The technology can store digital data on passive tags that can be attached to almost arbitrary objects. Users can retrieve data from a tag by touching it with a reading device, e.g. a mobile phone, or by holding them closely together. The simple, touch-like interaction between NFC-enabled mobile devices, tags readers or smartcards and can facilitate mobile interaction with tagged objects, associated digital information and services in different ways: NFC-tags can be used as physical hyperlinks that reduce complex interactions to touching a single tag, e.g. to open a website in a mobile browser (Broll et al., 2011. p 205). NFC has been used to enhance mobile payment, ticketing or information retrieval (ibid). NFC has been used also to enhance and validate location-sharing applications, such as Foursquare (Kim, 2012; see Broll et al., 2010). Turning our eyes to the horizon and thinking about journalism, there are more ways to think about how news organizations could use NFC to enhance news consumption or newsgathering, for instance: 1) If used by location-sharing applications, news organizations can take advantage of it and can tag information about specific locations or events, using the tags also to ads. 2) It can be used to tag others’ information about places and events; 3) News organizations can embed tags to physical newspapers, sending readers additional information or ads. 4) Newspapers can provide the possibility of buying tickets to cultural events, producing revenue through partnership with credit card companies. It is important to note that NFC is still emerging and has some drawbacks, including the fact that only few Android phones support the technology, illustrating the slow spread of this technology, at least in the U.S. The ABI Research Company forecasts that by this year that the technology will be used not only for payments but also to access information in smart devices. It is clear that this forecast is not happening rapidly yet. This year, a digital wallet enabled by NFC phones will be launched in Austin. It will be good opportunity to see how the technology works and how people will use it.

Reference of this essay: Silva, Cláudia. “Why Should News Organizations Care about Location-Based Services?” Mapping Locative Media. April 16, 2012. Web. Date of Access.



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