QR codes, georeferencing tons of data, and unlocking academic energy
This Slideshare from Sidneyeve Matrix is quite good. Generally it steers towards business (rightly so), but I think it has great application to the non-profits/higher education/information services kind of space that I am currently working in.
I am especially intrigued by the geospatial elements like Foursquare and it seems to be the logical next step from geocoding materials online. I worked for a project that was dedicated to African academic materials and since the whole project was focused on geography (Africa), we made geolocation an essential field of metadata for each and every object. Granted, it wasn’t always to the coordinates you might see on KML or something, but it was references spatially. That was a bit of a manual procedure as we made it a mandatory metadata field for all contributed content. But we really never did anything with that.
We knew it was valuable; in those days of digital libraries, we worked under the impression that more metadata was better. That all of the seemingly trivial fields was valuable or would soon be. We just didn’t have the tools or the creativity to unlock the potential there. But that is certainly starting to change.
Foursquare is an example of building incentive into existing human activity. The trip to the coffee shop, the taxi you take, the subway you are on. Mayors, influence, checked in, checked out. It taps the frenetic pace of human existence. But what about academic geo-activity? How do we tap the creative, slightly less frenetic, activity of intellectual clustering (of people and ideas) and thoughts?
I suspect, and this is just a shot in the dark, that QR codes might help a bit here. Some libraries are using them as finding aids (clever), but I want to use them for all our data. I am currently working on a project for biodiversity and botanical materials, Plant Science. We have over a million objects (to reach 2.2 million by 2012) and all of it is georeferenced (to varying degrees of specificity). Biodiversity is essentially a local practice; plants are generally endemic to certain areas only so the georeferencing part is critically important to the study. That works well in the existing academic structure of botany. Botanists identify and type (name) plants according to structure (taxonomy). Why not unlock all of that with QR codes? Create incentives for academic behavior by opening communication between the student in the field and the resource? Allow students to apply QR codes somewhere to type plants (without littering of course by putting stickers on actual living things!!!) and let them type and work for you. Immediate inventory. Incentivize activity (even for school credit). Use ICTs of most use in developing nations (mobile) to promote equality and lessen the digital divide.
How am I going to do this? I have no idea. All I know is that the tools are appearing that will allow me too. And with millions of pieces of global data already georeferenced, the ‘stuff’ is there as well. Now all I need is the imagination. I think we might need a bigger boat. I think we are getting too big for this one.