One of the casualties of the advent of rapid and ubiquitous, electronic communications was supposed to be place. That is, when you can virtually be anywhere at any time, then it would hardly matter where you actually are.
This reduction has occurred to some extent. Consider the recent Pokémon Go phenomenon. Players of the augmented reality game can collect a Rattata, for example, almost anywhere. Whether the virtual creature is encountered in Canada or Brazil, say, makes no difference.
By the same token, the game has thrown emphasis on certain places, often where the virtual creatures are unwelcome. For example, British MP Therese Coffey says that a local constituent has complained to her about people who have gravitated to his rural property to use a Pokémon gym there.
Similarly, Jeffrey Marder of West Orange, New Jersey has filed suit against Niantic in federal court, apparently seeking damages for having encouraged players to trespass on his property. He is seeking class action status for the suit, on behalf of who knows how many others who feel similarly intruded upon by players of the game.
The Pokémon Go system uses Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates to locate its virtual denizens. Locating places accurately with GPS coordinates is vital for certain services, such as smartphone navigation apps.
So, it is interesting to note that Australia is having to change its geographic coordinates to agree with GPS readings. Basically, because the continent is moving about 7cm northward each year, the geographic coordinates of every location in the country have shifted several meters since precise maps were compiled. These maps must be updated because, for example, automated vehicles depend upon their accuracy, notes Mr. Daska of Geoscience Australia:
If you want to start using driverless cars, accurate map information is fundamental. We have tractors in Australia starting to go around farms without a driver, and if the information about the farm doesn't line up with the co-ordinates coming out of the navigation system there will be problems.
Another testament to the continuing importance of place is Google Maps' new "Areas of interest" feature. Basically, when someone accesses a Google map of a given region, areas of particular interest to them are highlighted in a peachy color. What makes an area of interest to someone? The answer is the density of economic activity there, e.g., shopping opportunities.
Well, shopping opportunities can be important. They might be especially so to Google since that company sells advertising to such businesses. Indeed, the service may be self-reinforcing in the sense that users who use the service may be more likely to shop in their "areas of interest," thus making those areas of more interest to them, according to Google's measurements.
All of that would make advertising through Google of more interest to businesses in those locations.
So, although rapid and ubiquitous communications technology may have created a kind of placeless global village in some respects, its ability to fix locations exactly has reemphasized the importance of place in others.