Border Patrol, or: Where's Dallas Again?

dallas flicker boundaries.jpgFriend of Unfair Park "Peterk," who two weeks back brought to Life these old photos of Dallas, sends word of the latest and greatest in confusing time-killers: Boundaries. (Click the image above to enlarge Dallas's boundaries.) It's the brainchild of English Web developer Tom Taylor, who's dipped Flickr's geotags into Yahoo!'s GeoPlanet to determine the difference between where people think they are and where they really are.
When a user geotags a photograph in Flickr, they are prompted to choose from a list of place names that match the photograph's location most accurately. For example, was it South Bank or Waterloo; Shoreditch or Haggerston? This technique is called reverse geocoding, and it's frankly, very difficult, as they explain.
Flickr understands that places are more than unique geographic identifiers; that they are mental models people use to identify with location. Moreover, they are fluid and opinionated, varying based on a number of parameters such as context, ambition and personal background. In true, wisdom of the crowds style, Flickr use the combined selections of their thousands of photographers to compute the shape of these places.
Confounding? You betcha -- even to folks who understand it. But I think it has something to do with the fact that people who think they're taking photos in Dallas are really, um, not. --Robert Wilonsky
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