In our modern world, with the prevalence of social networks and media, our society is transforming itself into a society that requires what some social scientists are calling “ambient awareness”. Ambient awareness is the Internet’s way of recreating how we acquire information from people when they physically surround us, without always paying attention to a specific individual. By observing a person’s body language, sighs, stray comments, and other behavioral quirks, one can understand a person better. Ambient awareness is able to achieve a similar effect because there are numerous online services now (Facebook, Twitter, among others) that provide up-to-date information of what an individual is doing, how he or she may feel, as well as their thoughts and feelings about a particular event.
As a society, we are also curious and (sometimes) vested in the lives and well being of strangers. We buy gossip magazines and read blogs like PerezHilton.com and TMZ.com to learn more details about the lives of celebrities and famous people; we constantly access websites like PostSecret.com, OverheardinNewYork.com and Fmylife.com so we can read the latest anecdotes and secrets that our peers want to share with the entire globe. There is a real yearning by individuals to expand their ambient awareness to encompass as much information about the world as they can access.
However, most individuals can only access their ambient awareness through their computers, which may in turn isolate them from the physical world they long to have information from. With the advent of mobile computing devices such as the Apple iPhone and the T-Mobile G1 powered by Google’s Android platform, it is now possible to enable people with access to their ambient awareness while still being active in the physical world.
Therefore, Ivonne Deliz and I created a new application that will enable people with access to an aspect of their ambient awareness. This application, called GeoSecret, is an iPhone application that combines the iPhone’s capability to embed photographs with GPS information (commonly known as geotagging) with our society’s need to both share and read personal information provided by strangers. We chose the iPhone platform, as it is currently a very popular mobile computing platform with a large pool of users.
GeoSecret provides a service through which people will be able to anonymously share their most private moments or information, which we call “secrets”. Users can share their secrets by either posting text directly to our services, or by taking a
picture on a place of interest and embedding text to this picture. Users are said to be “dropping” their secrets in the world, and these secrets would be accessible to others utilizing our services.
We designed GeoSecret so that it is able to integrate easily with websites like FMyLife.com. That way, GeoSecret is able to access and utilize the data provided by this websites as its own. While such a decision will make it appear as if GeoSecret is a client of these websites, GeoSecret is more than that. None of the websites currently provide a means by which multimedia can be transmitted along with the “secrets”, and few provide geographical data along with these secrets.
We believe that these new features would provide users with additional methods by which they can expand their ambient awareness, enriching their experience by facilitating a user’s understanding of a particular event or “secret”. Furthermore, since we store all of the information, pictures and secrets posted through GeoSecret and since we control what information is uploaded to each website, we are able to utilize the information we acquire to build our own database and create a completely independent service.
This video shows GeoSecret in action: