proXimity: Walking the Link

Simon Harper, Carole Goble, Stephen Pettitt


Our society is consistently told that the world is becoming increasingly connected, that the Internet can join physically disparate people by means of email, Web sites, and chatrooms, and that the one 'must have' is a personal domain name; in effect, that the virtual should be more respected than the physical. People are led to believe that computers, with the 'net' as their focus, are their portal to other worlds, their communication mechanism to remote peoples, 'blogging' their primary form of self expression. All this is in part true, but we think there are fundamental issues that are not addressed. The focus on only the virtual is skewing our perception to over-estimate the Web's importance. The increased complexity inherent in all large systems will become too great for many users as the Web develops and grows. The local environment, often most pertinent to the user, is currently completely ignored with regard to dynamic information giving. The Web's focus on information belies the fact that the world is also composed of physical artifacts. Therefore, we think that the next direction for the Web is the conjoining of the physical and virtual. We suggest that they must be connected because without a physical presence the virtual world cannot attain its full potential. To reduce the complexity and stress placed on the user, the Web should relate to the users' physical location and real-world artifacts encountered to make meaningful choices about what information is currently useful or required. In effect, the user acquires a real-world centric view of the Web in which the Web conforms to reality, not reality to the Web. The primary goal of our system, 'proXimity', is to augment realities by giving hypertext, and thus the Web, a physical presence in the real world.

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