Location, Location, Location by Mattias Våglin

Hollis put the visor on. She could see through it, though only dimly. She looked toward the corner of Clark and Sunset, making out the marquee of the Whiskey. Alberto reached out and gently fumbled with a cable, at the side of the visor.
“This way,” he said, leading her along the sidewalk to a low, windowless, black-painted façade. She squinted up at the sign. The Viper Room.
“Now,” he said, and she heard him tap the laptop’s keyboard. Something shivered, in her field of vision. “Look. Look here.”
She turned, following his gesture, and now a slender, dark-haired body, facedown on the sidewalk.
“Alloween night, 1993,” said Odile.
- William Gibson, Spook Country

In his novel Spook Country, William Gibson explores something called locative art, art existing in cyberspace, but bound to a location through

technology. He paints an image of a large movement that is leaving their marks across the world. Invisible, but there.

I was immediately fascinated by this very concept. Spook Country takes place in the present time, and there are lots of new ways to create art. Could it be true, do these things really exist? Could I have walked past some incredible artwork without even being able to see it?

The answer is yes and no. No, it doesn’t exist to the extent William Gibson wrote. The technology isn’t quite there yet. But it isn’t a figment of his imagination either. The idea and technology exists, and some are doing work in the field. But it hasn’t quite come together. Yet.

Or as William Gibson himself said as a

response to the question if it was happening now: “No. There is a locative-art movement, and if you Google it you'll see a lot that's mostly very conceptual, and has to do with mapping. “

The tech

So let’s start there. The Google search does indeed turn up a lot of conceptual ideas. And a lot of it has to do with mapping. And mapping Is a key piece.

The idea is that a Wi-Fi transmitter is broadcasting at a very specific set of GPS coordinates. So the art will be viewable only for someone able to read the Wi-Fi at that specific location. Combine this with advancement in 3-D mapping for hand held devices and something called augmented reality and you’ve got the basics for what

William Gibson describes. Augmented reality is the technology used when adding free kick distance circles in a soccer game (or the yellow lines marking a first down in American football if you prefer).

So the pieces exist, it’s only a matter of putting the together.

Why care?

What I find so fascinating about the concept is the idea that I can walk through a historical landmark, and then with the help of a handheld or cellphone watch imagery of a real historical event taking place. Like seeing the battle of Hastings. Or the Boston Tea Party. You get the idea.

The way we experience culture will change a lot.