I would say so. I remember when I attended the first Where 2.0 conference in San Jose 2006. Location-based products and sites were just about to boom. The hype was really on. The conference was not the best ever, but became a milestone of a recognition of location-based mashups as something innovative and new. Since then it has been an explosion of services out there and several venture funded startups have come. The underlying tools such as GPS, Google Maps, Google Earth and Virtual Earth to mention some have been drastically improved, so have the concepts of mashing up. The amount of tutorials out there in location-based mashups is enormous. Just Google it and you will find page after page telling you how to do cool overlays in Google Maps in minutes or create and import pretty awesome KML file overlays in Google Earth.
However, we should now start to recognize this as a maturing concept and start to look for new angles in the coming and emerging new media arena. For instance I have looked at the Knight News Challenge. I find it a bit ironic they still have as a requirement that the project needs to benefit a specific geographical community. In my eyes that is not very innovative and a bit misplaced as a specific requirement. Preferred characteristic sure, but requirement no.
When the Knight News Challenge first started a few years back, the location-based mashups were new, exciting and interesting, but now in many ways pretty out-dated as an innovative aspect of a new media project. The media scene has moved on, and we should raise our vision. We will see more of content-based mashups where location will play a role, but will not be the sole differentiation. Of course there is room for more explorations in location-based services and mashups. However as a requirement in an (supposively) innovation stimulative news challenge, I would say it is narrowing the scope for possible projects down too much. For instance, if you would like to create a global borderless social network, based on interaction around news and opinions, it would not fit within the scope of the challenge as it doesn’t benefit a specific geographical community.
Does that really make any sense? I do not think so. Especially since the whole media industry is becoming more and more globalized. Is there room for local news and projects that aim to benefit specific geographical communities? Of course, but will they really benefit more of a niche geographical community? In a way probably. Taking out the constraint of a specific geographical community would enable the local issues are heard on a national, regional and even global level. Yet with the proper execution you can still benefit niche communities within the global one. Think of this as how much sense it would be to constrain YouTube to only one specific type of videos as for reach. Makes no sense there, so why would it make sense for geographical communities?
I would say we should have the guts and actually need to raise our eyes to see local issues in the context of other bigger issues. It is for sure an interesting balance not give the proper room for the local issues if you still consider the bigger picture. Yet that is the only way of really recognizing the local issue and give it the support it so often needs to have. In my eyes that is how you do create a substantial and sustainable change for people around the world who needs it. Especially in the media arena where the weak voices need to be amplified, not constrained.
Let the consumer be the judge whether an issue is “local” or not. They should be the true champions of that, not us creators of the projects or funders of the same. The important part here is really to realize that the more sustainable and incredibly successful projects around the world have been multipurposed ones, not the niched ones. It is about defining the right as vertical. A vertical that is as broad as possible.