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The Ragged School Blog Deptford

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Aggregating the hyperlocal

I'm glad to see the superb online growth in newsflow about South East London. Now everyone knows they can set up a webpage about a project - or they know someone who can show them. One interesting phenomena is the Wikipedia effect which has promoted the consolidation or aggregation of existing web content thus saving us time combing search results. The spin off has been beyond encyclopedic. Whole swathes of urban geography have been placed in Wikipedia, even if only to create a stub article which is like a seed to be cared for by adding content gradually, lovingly. This is the cult of the amateur, which in a cooperative environment creates societies of mind, societies of interest. By sheer collective effort the amateur is elevated to 'gentleman scientist'. To think this is the tip of the iceberg, we are thrilled by the speed of this Morse Code, unable to survey the colossus of a beast so cosmic, so amorphous.

If the old problem was the inaccessibility or invisibility of information the new problem is the sense of orientation in that cosmic amorphous 'space'. When everything is around you, and I mean everything, you need the map that shows 'you are here'.

So I was delighted to happen upon a new phrase - hyperlocal. Before a neologism can settle it needs to be pulled about and rattled to stress test its utility. So here is my definition: hyperlocal gives your search a point of view.

I think the trend is towards a division of labour between content creation and editing/assembly. More people will make crap videos, but more people will categorise that crap and when aggregated make it more useful. I dont want to know about a random journal of a random person, but I do want to know more about something thats on my mind and in my search results. If the best result comes with an option to search clusters of similar and related content then for that time my attention is all on randomsubjectalpha I can mine your crap and suddenly for that second its not crap its that total absorption you get when you are 'in the zone'.

Thats starting with a topic and 'zooming into' the field via search, but how about starting in a real field and zooming outward into a neighbouring field. Google Maps has made annotating real geography a way that helps us start with a tangible point in Cartesian space and moves in a proximity that defines the context and grounds us, it really does pin down information. For as long as there are people putting push pins into the map with exactitude we can stop searching and start finding.