“Locative” news

Add another acronym to your journalism glossary. Students in the New Media Publishing Project at Northwestern University’s j-school are testing LoJo, or “locative journalism” and blogging about it at Lojoconnect. As students Ki Mae Heussner and Amy Lee explain it on MediaShift, “locative storytelling provides multimedia content that enhances a user’s connection to a given place.”

How does it work? Sort of like an audio tour at a museum, the students say, only more mobile. If you have a GPS-equipped cell phone, for example, your location could automatically trigger news and information developed specifically for that place.

After doing some research, the students decided that “the kinds of stories best suited to this approach are tied to locations with historical significance or idiosyncratic characteristics.” The team is now working on stories related to Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics. Among the technical issues they’ve encountered:

Tall buildings and wind can cause GPS drift and jitter, which makes it difficult to anchor and trigger certain points along the tour…

If there’s too much lag time between locations, participants will see an empty black screen on the GPS device until they enter an area with multimedia content. Extra content is pivotal to keep people engaged while they’re moving between locations.

Other technical problems include software incompatibility and screens that are hard to see outdoors. As for content:

While much of the emphasis, so far, on content for portable devices has been on video, audio might be a more valuable format for mobile storytelling because people use portable devices while doing other things (walking, driving, etc.).

So how would a newsroom use this technology? The LoJo team suggests that GPS-based storytelling could supplement blogs and hyper-local news sites “as a way for people to become more engaged with news that’s directly relevant to them and their communities.” But the students concede that GPS technology raises a few concerns, including privacy issues and tracking by advertisers.

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