Some interesting thoughts from their philosophy:
Consider the space immediately around yourself: It is likely that there is an elderly person within a hundred meters who could use help or even just company. Within two hundred meters there must be twelve opportunities to reap a cash reward for some work, or even just a good feeling from volunteering. There must be a hundred lawnmowers one could borrow in that same distance, twenty cars going somewhere useful, at least ten potential business partners to start new ventures with and surely one person of nearly identical interests. Why can’t we share that knowledge within our communities more easily?
The person to person map helps people share transient and volatile ‘life information’ with each other in a structured, secure and persistent way. It is designed to help communities regrow that shared ‘knowledge commons’ that was once a familiar part of small town life. The project is a frustrated response to the kind of super-urbanization and super-commercialization of all of the human social spaces. It is designed to help encourage ‘dialogue’ in an age of ‘broadcast’ – to encourage ‘one-to-one voice’ as opposed to ‘one-to-many voice’. It is a collection of tools and is a philosophy.
One key feature of the project is the map view which shows a top down view of a community (such as a small town). Users can highlight or add their own features at will and can see each others input with filtering. This effectively lets users hang ‘post-it’ notes in space [ Ben Russell 1999 – headmap.com ]. For example one can post a note saying “This restarant is great!” or “I lost my kitten here” or “Anybody want to go out and play?” or “The parking bylaw at this corner is misleading” or “Watch out for the police radar gun here today” or “Apartment for rent in this area” or “There’s a hotspring up here” to any of the other thousands upon thousands of snippets of grass roots knowledge that typically cannot be represented or persisted on the Internet as it exists today but that can often make a significant difference between a good experience and a bad experience when visiting an old or new place.
Above and beyond the mapping feature there are many other tools for sharing and organizing knowledge. There is a tool to help describe situations with animated 3d maquettes suitable for everything from re-constructing a car accident for a judicial hearing or for letting children tell and share their own stories while remaining competitive with TV. There is an ongoing goal to provide technology to perform powerful social, economic and environmental ‘simulation services’ so that communities can actually simulate and predict the impact of policy decisions before they happen. There are tools to help people schedule dependencies and coordinate work-flow and there are strong privacy and filtering tools to keep the system from being bogged down by noise.
With tools like this communities may begin to see a higher quality of life experience for their members as they pool awareness and knowledge much more deeply. It is our hope that this system and other systems like it will play a part in re-capturing a sense of community for an increasingly mechanized world, and that we begin to rewrite the rules by which our society operates; to move everyday decisions we all make from being heavily codified, brittle, inadequate and often just plain wrong to being local, immediate, alive and ultimately more human. When we know what is right next door, and when we’re allowed to say it to each other, then a lot of our decisions can be quite different.