Location Based Services (LBS) and Context

Jiang and Yao’s (2006) paper discusses LBS as geographic data and services offered through mobile networks and the Internet to handheld devices and traditional terminals. They bring up major issues in LBS including context-based modeling, and conclude with this interesting line:

“The boundary [between GIS and LBS] could be even more blurry in the future    when conventional GIS advances to invisible GIS in which GIS functionalities are embedded in tiny sensors and microprocessors”. – Jiang and Yao, 2006

This line implies in part a passivity by the general public in determining what LB-information is served to them. Granted, users have indirect input in the form of how often they visit or search specific websites (influencing how algorithms determine your preferences), but the automating of deciding what to show can hinder geographic understanding. LBS has significant power in conditioning our spatial cognition (e.g. people viewing cities as gridded and ruled by roads in North America thanks to Google Maps). The authors describe context-based modeling as a hierarchical categorization of the environment that is updated on-the-fly. It would be interesting to allow the user to assign priority to specific features of a context to optimize the use of limited computing resources; a billboard advertiser may be more interested in up-to-date information on how often busses pass by his ad than the amount of foot traffic on the same street. This also introduces active decision-making by users and is probably more practical as a blend of intelligent human input and technical ability of computers for context-based modeling. My main concern is that sensors typically provide point-specific data for location, and struggle with describing the space around them. Such a view can lead to tunnel-visioning or reductionism into Start-Point, End-Point. Incorporating context is needed for understanding the spatial interrelationships of features.

As a side note, the extent to which users can search for specific things is likely to increase exponentially as our world becomes increasingly sensor-filled. This brings up the debate of how to appropriately restrict and limit access to LBS.   

– Madskiier_JWong


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