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Virtual graffiti

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The intersection of geolocational apps and social media has produced… virtual graffiti.

At several American universities, students with cellphones are tagging campus landmarks with comments and labels using location-aware apps like Foursquare. Some universities have found ways to teach through tagging:

“At North Carolina State University, meanwhile, a new library service shows smartphone users historical pictures of campus buildings based on where users are standing, including a snapshot of the first freshman class, from 1890, when the agricultural college’s hot mobile technology was horses.”

And students have found, er, innovative ways to tag spots around campus – one of the deans at the University as at Dallas discovered his office had been tagged in Foursquare with the comment “Watch out for lame jokes!”

The ability to virtually tag places, things and people isn’t new, but it does create challenges when it comes to managing our identities online – who owns that material? Foursquare? The tagger? The person tagged? Right now, the responsibility is in the hands of the tagged – for instance, look at the care university students take in reviewing, and untagging when necessary, photos of themselves that get posted to Facebook after a particularly spectacular weekend.

Is this likely to change? Probably not – online as in offline, we should all know what face we’re putting forward.

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