Though the Internet seems to permeate every aspect of our life, it is still largely an urban phenomenon.
The Schools of Computer Science at The University of Nottingham and Swansea University are partners, in a new and exciting research project that will research the issues pertaining to the urban/rural technological divide. The project seeks to bridge the rural divide through the development of innovative mapping services, which will enhance a broad range of activities that sustain the rural economy – from walking and cycling to surfing and bird watching.
‘Bridging the Rural Divide’ will develop community-based maps that enhance our engagement with the countryside. These will be coupled with new data services to both input and access digital content in the field. The team will develop these services ‘in the wild’, hoping to provide a blueprint for the future provision of services that will meet the needs of users in rural settings. The project is supported by: the Research Councils UK - Digital Economy programme, Ordnance Survey, the Countryside Council for Wales and the Horizon Digital Economy Hub (University of Nottingham).
“Current digital mapping services largely focus on urban environments”, Dr Alan Chamberlain of the University’s Mixed Reality Lab, said. “Google Maps, for example, offers rich street views of urban settings, but such views of rural space are largely absent.”
New developments in mobile, location and sensor-based or ‘ubiquitous’ computing now make it possible for users to move beyond the urban fringes. They herald the expansion of computing from cities into rural locations that have long been marginalised due to the limitations of existing technology.
It is hoped that the user-led development of a ‘rural ubicomp toolkit’ will allow people to create and share community-based maps that reflect their interests and concerns. For example, users will be able to sketch routes of their favourite pathways through the countryside. These routes will be augmented by GPS data and community content relevant to different points on their route. Tags and content can also be added to other users’ routes, adding to the overall body of knowledge.
The toolkit will also allow this content to be accessed and added to, via displays in visitor centres, on-line and via mobile phones. ‘Bridging the Rural Divide’ will result in an openly availably set of tools to allow people to capture experiences, represent rural experiences and share them.
With thanks to Elin Jones AM (Ceredigion) and Mark Williams MP (Ceredigion) for their support. (2010)
Named MRL Team
For more information contact Dr Alan Chamberlain: Alan.Chamberlain(@)nottingham.ac.uk (remove brackets)
BBC News story Bridging the Rural Divide
This work was supported by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) [grant number - EP/I001816/1]