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“Geocaching is “a high-tech treasure hunt for adults” – at least, that is the most succinct explanation enthusiasts can offer. A striking mix of the latest network technologies, unregulated gaming and muddy-boots bushwalking, it’s an activity that didn’t exist nine years ago. Now there are about 1 million cachers who participate worldwide, an estimated 13,000 of them in Australia. More get hooked all the time.

“Cachers refer to the wider public – the uninitiated hordes ignorant of their secret missions – as “muggles”, after the non-magic folk in the Harry Potter books. A cache that has been disturbed or trashed is said to have been “muggled”.

“Science writer Darren Osborne, who has been geocaching since mid-2003, says: “When I started, it was very much a clandestine activity. There are a number of people who do like the secrecy of geocaching and want to keep it that way but as more and more people find out about it, it becomes a bit harder to retain that secret squirrel, Get Smart stuff.”

“It’s not really about the treasure hidden inside the caches – typically trinkets from $2 shops or small toys. It’s about finding it. Caches are not buried but they are concealed – in tree trunks, under benches, under stones, sometimes even in fence posts or landmarks.


“Geocaching was invented in May 2000, within days of the US Government switching off the security restrictions on global positioning systems that limited the accuracy of civilian receivers. A Portland computer consultant, Dave Ulmer, posted a message online that he had hidden a plastic bucket with software, videos, books, food, money and a slingshot in the woods near Portland, says the author of Geocaching For Dummies, Joel McNamara. “He used his GPS receiver to record the latitude and longitude and encouraged others to try to find it,” McNamara says.”

Adult Hide and Seek, The Sydney Morning Herald


Base Jumping

Redefining the Basemap
Alison Sant


Current collaborative mapping projects using locative media technologies have often overlooked the conventions of the base map as a site for reinvention. Although these projects are ambitious in their aim to propose alternative organizations of urban space through the way it is digitally mapped, they remain bounded by datasets that reinforce a Cartesian and static notion of urban space. This paper questions the methodology of the base map as it is utilized in these projects, and proposes alternative approaches for mapping the city. Specifically, it looks at the city as a space of events, defined by the ways in which it is used rather than the orthogonal geometry by which it is constructed; and highlights several key examples from the history of urban planning and art practice that provide models for such alternative mapping strategies. By focusing on the limitations of the base map, I hope to provoke new ideas for these emerging projects.


Collaborative Mapping

As the technologies of locative media develop, they have engendered a series of projects that utilize GPS (Global Positioning Systems), wireless networks, and mobile technologies to augment space with its digital double of media annotations. Among these, collaborative mapping projects have proposed to use location-sensing technologies to create a shared interpretation of urban space. Admirably, they offer tools with which to gather multiple perspectives of place – escaping the margins of tourist guidebooks and visitor maps – to enable a collective memory in which, in the words of Giles Lane, “ordinary citizens embed social knowledge in the new landscape of the city.”[1] As the strategies of this vision are defined, the code is written, and the geographic data sets are collected, it is crucial that we examine the strategies of mapping itself; including not only what is mapped but how.


Google Maps Hack


Google Maps hack turns book into geo-novel

In its current incarnation, Christoph Benda’s first novel requires that you a) be able to read German and b) have an internet connection.

Benda’s work, Senghor on the Rocks, is a geo-referenced electronic novel in which the text is combined with an embedded map mash-up from Google Maps on a website.

The map, which is fixed in the “Satellite View” mode, moves as the location changes in the novel and every page of text is accompanied by a corresponding map.

The geo-novel is an adaption of a book written by Benda, a former advertising copywriter now working at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and is based on his travels in the African nation of Senegal.

“For me, the project always has been related to a map in a certain sense. Only that it wasn’t hi tech, online satellite imagery but the rather worn out paper map I had carried with me throughout all my time in Africa,” says Benda who wrote the book between 2002 and 2005.

Set in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, the story takes place on the day in 2001 when the nation’s jubilation over its first qualification for football’s World Cup is overshadowed by news of the death of Leopold Sedar Senghor, the republic’s legendary first president.

The novel’s main character is an Austrian camera assistant called Martin “Chi” Tschirner, who arrives in Dakar on a promotional job for the soft drink giant Coca Cola.

“It’s a fast paced adventure that starts as a job, develops into an involuntary journey and culminates in a reflection about the possibilities and limits of cross-cultural understanding,” explains Florian Ledermann, a software engineer at the Vienna University of Technology, who worked with Benda on the project.

Benda and Ledermann began collaborating to “geo-annotate” Benda’s novel began about one-and-a-half years ago.

“We wanted to add something to the story that helps readers – especially as the story is set in an unfamiliar environment – to envision the mood of the story without illustrating it,” says Ledermann.

“The satellite images provided by Google Maps do not constrain the reader’s imagination but are capable of actually triggering imagination by giving a rough impression without too much detail.”

Benda says that as a newbie author, the project to geo-annotate Senghor on the Rocks appealed to him because of the experimental nature of the format.

“I am pretty sure that we met a much wider audience – in terms of media coverage as well as readers or at least interested people – than we ever could have found with a ‘classical’ print publication,” he says.

The launch this year by Amazon of the internet-connected Kindle electronic book reader, means that it may not be too long before geo-referenced publications hit the mainstream.

Google Maps hack turns book into geo-novel, Sydney Morning Herald