Michael Calore's Epicenter post "Gmail's New 'Add Location' Feature Is Too Honest" talks about how you can now agree to have GMail automatically add a location line to your emails. I suppose mine would say "Santa Clara, CA" right now. Calore says he won't be opting in to this feature until it allows him to lie. He provides an clear discussion of the issues of automatic location awareness -- nice to share where you are:
...location data adds value to just about every web service. It increases the relevancy of search results, makes online mapping more useful by a factor of ten, and, when combined with a good social network site, it makes meeting up with friends easier.But he also points out the complexities: Sometimes it's wrong based on your network setup (his hardwired connection showed him in NY - the company's HQ - while he was actually in San Francisco) ...and sometimes you don't want people to know where you are:
The obvious argument is centered around privacy. Sometimes it's trivial, like when you send a note to your boss saying you're sick, only to have your e-mail signature rat you out by announcing that you're sitting behind home plate at the ballpark. More seriously, there's e-stalking and the open invitation to unwanted guests. Also, letting everyone know where you are all the time is just creepy. As a society, we're not ready for that yet.He then goes into the options you have for managing the process -- thus, all of us as systems designers. You could physically retype the line with the location. You could (not me) create an application that overwrites the location. I suppose you could also turn it on and off, but you'd need to do it randomly or people would know you are trying to hide your location for cause. More and more we have to take on the role of "accidental" systems designers, and I don't believe we are ready for it. As Calore says, don't opt in unless you understand the consequences. Many people on are the Internet. Few understand the architecture. Multiple examples in the last month of kids not understanding how much monitoring goes on, for good and for bad, and their not knowing how to control it even when they can. Cloud computing complicates the picture of where your data is and how to back it up, and who has rights to it. Mark Fuller, Greg Northcraft, and I wrote a chapter called "Borgs in the Org: Organizational Decision Making and Technology." There we say,
It seems critical to help users understand that availability and implementation of technology is just the beginning of effective use.We argue that we need to be flexible with the adaptive structures (looking for new better uses); we need to grasp organizational realities (e.g., is there a guest network at your client's office, or not); we must understand that systems integration is a life skill; and we must know when to stop. Danielle Camardo, Nicole Yee, and I are working on a project related to how faculty teach in this environment, so these issues are on top of mind for us. We would appreciate comments on how normal people handle their roles as systems designers/integrators. Most of us learn by doing. But is that going to work in the long run given the complexities of this environment?