Place, Location, and Geolocated MOOs

There is a fundamental difference between the notions of place and of location. A location is completely specified by its cartography; a place owes its phenomenology to its unique context of neighbourhood and individual experience, in time. Place is what becomes of locations when things happen there.

I admit this distinction escaped me when I was first writing about augmented realities, but it has been brought home to me by projects Ben mentioned today. mudengland and mudlondon are MOOs linked to geographic metadata — very similar in concept to my original Ku24 project in Tokyo, albeit utilising much more modern technologies.

The MOOs work, but they also highlight the differences between place and location. In mudlondon, locations feel strongly quantised – to get from Oxford Circus to Hoxton you ‘go east’, but there is a lot of conceptual work to be done before that ‘going eastness’ feels different to the ‘going eastness’ which gets you from there to say Bethnal Green. By which I mean something more than it simply being, say, one move east to HMV, two to Tottenham Court Road, forty-three to Liverpool Street. The MOO is a series of linked places, but in the physical world the map is not so conveniently the territory. Place is fuzzier — real-worldlier — than a digraph of interlinked GPS coordinates. Experientially, places are contextualised by their neighbourhoods, themselves nests of neighbourhoods. Likewise, distance, intentionality and velocity alter the scale of our attention. The technical challenge is to map this experiential lustre into metadata and interfaces to humanise an otherwise arid landscape of maps.

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