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6/24/2008
08:51 PM
Melanie Turek
Melanie Turek
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GPS: Small-Town Living for All

A recent article in New York Magazine wonders how GPS tracking will change our lives--suddenly, it seems, everyone will know where we are and what we're doing. But really, is this so much different from how life used to be, back in the days before modern technology?In small towns, everyone already knows where you are and what you're doing, seemingly all the time. In the small town where I live, you can't pick up your mail or go grocery shopping without running into at least one person you know. Better still, my kids can't travel around town without being seen by someone who will almost certainly report back to me on their behaviorif needed. This harks back to an earlier time, when community was paramount and everyone really did know your name--a time that is often romaticized for the level of trust and accountability it delivered.Of course, not everyone likes being watched--many hide out in big cities precisely for the annonynimity they afford. But the struggle (or balance) between privacy and support is age-old.I often describe presence information as basically making it possible for people to operate as they've been doing for years in today's increasingly virtual workplace. Taking a person's wherabouts into account isn't new--what's new is how we get that information.

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