October 31, 2011
Previewing Location, Mobile, and How Data Tells Stories at FoE5

This year at FoE, I'll be engaging a panel of great speakers to have a slightly different conversation about location, beyond the usual marketing and technology-focused discussions. With mobile and location-based services on the rise, it is increasingly important think about how these technologies, the behaviors they enable, and the data they produce change how we encounter the spaces we inhabit and interact with one another within them.

As a quick introduction, I wanted to share a little background on our panel:

Tell us a little bit about what you're currently working on and why:

Andy Ellwood: I am currently heading up the business development efforts for Gowalla. We are working with brands and partners around the world as it pertains to the interactions and engagements that our millions of users are creating as it pertains to the stories that they tell about the places that they go.

Dan Street: Hi. I'm CEO of Loku. We bring Big Data tools to Local. You can think of us as a search engine that's specific to local information.

Germain Halegoua: I'm currently working on a few different projects, all related to location or physical place in some way. I'm finishing up a research project about the relationships between vendors and customers over location-based services as well as other social media platforms. I'm beginning to interview people about how they use Google Street View for purposes other than navigation and to examine the participatory cultures that are being formed around StreetView. Mary Gray, Alex Leavitt, and I are working on a project about Foursquare "jumpers" (people who check-in to locations when they're not physically in that location). I'm also working on a collaborative mapping and digital storytelling project that involves bike accidents reported to the Madison, WI Police Department between 2008-2011.

I think it's important to understand what people actually do with navigation and location-
based technologies and the cultures that surround these activities. Frequently, actual
practices tend to differ from intended use, and I think it's important to notice when
and why this happens. All of my current projects deal with social power in some way
(juxtaposing official and vernacular knowledge and experience of place; engaging with
location-based technologies in alternative or oppositional ways; trying to exert control
of customer-vendor relations through location-based technologies) which is a concept
that is under-examined in location-based social media but something that is incredibly
important to understand as more people engage with these systems.

Tell us a little bit about your background and the perspective it brings to your interests:

Andy Ellwood: My background is in sales, most recently selling private jets before jumping into the digital world.

Dan Street: My background is strategy consulting and private equity, in technology and media companies.

Germain Halegoua: My interest in social media and location-based technologies actually stems from studying and participating in documentary film, public access television, and media
activism in NYC. Working on these projects, I observed the ways in which people
harnessed and produced media in order to understand and augment their connection
to local issues, mobilize their neighborhoods, explore their city, and express their social
position within urban space. People have been using technologies to represent and play
with location, and using location to contextualize their experiences, for some time now.
I see activities like "check-ins" and location announcement as an extension of these
mediated practices. Because of my past experiences, I think I'm more apt to think about
a "check-in" as more than "just a check-in," and a lot of my research is driven by the
desire to find out what that means.

How did you first become involved and interested in creating/researching location-based data/interaction/technology? Was there a particular aspect or incident that drew you?

Andy Ellwood: My attraction to tech and digital specifically focused on the ability to take online experiences live and deepen relationships with friends and trusted brands.

Dan Street: I jumped into local both because I care - I'm from a small town, and want to bring some of those dynamics to an urban world - and also because it's a largely untapped opportunity.

Germain Halegoua: I think it might have been when I bought my first cell phone. It was just a bare-bones cell phone with no SMS plan at first (and definitely no apps or web browsing, etc), but it got me thinking about communication, information, and location in a totally different way.