When I was first introduced to Harry Potter and the magical world of witchcraft and wizardry one of the most fascinating things to me was the Marauders Map.
For muggle types, non wizarding folk, or those lacking in Potter knowledge, the Marauders Map can be most simply explained as a map of Hogwards [magical school for young witches and wizards] where each student, professor, friend or foe is indicated on the map by means of a black dot. The Dot moves around the map so as to represent the exact whereabouts of a specific person at any given time. The only way to disappear off the map is to either leave the school grounds to enter the room of requirement (a room that provides the solution to any problem a Hogwarts student is looking to solve at any particular time)
The catch however is that only one, unique copy of the map exists and that it is not accessible to just any Tom, Dick even Harry.
In order to be able to access the map one needs a special password, else it simply looks like a regular, boring, old piece of parchment. The password is extremely secret and is only known amongst a select few within the wizarding world.
Being an avid Potter fan myself, I fortunately am privy to such information.
Anyone who’s familiar with the tales of Harry Potter will know that the Marauders Map was founded by four great, yet promiscuous, young wizards, who had a keen eye for mischief.
To be able to access the map and its contents one must tap the parchment with ones wand and chant “I solemnly swear I am up to no good” and the map will then reveal itself to you.
The name ‘Marauders’ is indicative of its nature and the users intentions and there is no doubt that any reader of such map clearly has intentions far greater than simple geography.
Although the map can be used for good, its general involvement is in mischievous and often dangerous circumstances.
With that in mind, can one not question whether a person seeking to pin point the exact location of anyone else, friend or foe, could possibly be doing so with some degree of menace in mind?
In response to Denis Cowley’s idea of developing Foursquare to a point where we are able to pinpoint the exact whereabouts of our friends, family, and general social network contacts I cannot help but compare this to something along the lines of the Marauders Map. See the full interview with him on memeburn.com.
Why do we need to know where our friends are all the time? Taking that one step further, why do I need to know where a distant contact, possible ex-colleague, high school peer or random aquantanice who felt the need to ‘friend’ me is each second of the day? Surely if they wanted me there they would have invited me, and if I had wanted to be there wouldn’t I be so already?
If we’re talking long distance here wouldn’t they rather have taken the time to inform me of their travels prior, during, or even after the actual time?
If they couldn’t have been bothered to do all of that why would I want to waste my time watching their little black dot moving around a real- life Marauders Map, now known as Google Maps or Facebook Places.
Not saying that I discard the technology of the likes of Foursquare, nor that I demine it, but do I want to keep tabs on the exact movements and locations of every person in my social network. I don’t think so. I get annoyed enough when people on Facebook feel the need to update their profile with “Joe Blog just checked into Black River Office Park”. It’s even more lame when that’s where their office is based and the do so on a daily basis.
Imagine having a paranoid mother on your case 24/7 (like someone tapping constantly on your shoulder) wanting to know where you are every second of the day, now imagine every social connection you have has access, or even worse, desire for the same information. Scary.
Another irk for me when engaging in this space is examples like “Joe Blog just checked into Cavendish Square”. So? Is that some kind of achievement worth sharing on social media platforms? Are you doing something life changing whilst doing your shopping or do you just want people to know you’re out so you look cool? Not to burst your bubble but simply being at Cavendish doesn’t make you cool – sorry 13 year old me who thought that was the case back in the day.
I do think it becomes a strong marketing tool when Joe Blog checks into a certain place and then recommends it or compliments it for outstanding service. That’s a walking advert right there – directly from the horse’s mouth so to speak, no sales team or carrot dangling required.
So how does the likes of Foursquare link to Harry Potter you may ask. Well like the Marauders Map, Foursquare, and its growing counter parts, can be used with sinister intentions
For example, if you were having an affair (not that I have experience in this, but I do watch a lot of Hollywood movies) and by watching your partners movements you knew they had just ‘checked into’ a business meeting at a certain place would that give you enough notice period to indulge in a fleeting moment of passion.
In general, people don’t like the idea of being watched – followed, tracked or monitored. If they choose to check in at certain places by choice and choose to share those experiences with others I don’t see an issue with that, other than the fact that those kinds of people are most likely to be the kind that over share in general anyway.
What I do have an issue with is that my cell phone [Blackberry] is slowly but surely being turned into a tracking device, so one of these days I could be hunted down at any given moment.
Parents – if your children were able to know your exact whereabouts would that not lead to unexpected guests and unauthorized parties taking place in your absence?
Teenagers – do you really want your parents to be able to monitor and know your exact whereabouts all the time?
Paranoid house dwellers – would you want to expose yourself to the vulnerability that burglars could be monitoring you on foursquare and know your exact whereabouts so at the time you are away from the house they are able to ransack your home?
To those in the closet – do you really want the whole world to know when you check out, say into Bronx?
An interesting link between the mischievous nature of the fictional map in the Harry Potter series, and the very real communication technology that is on the increase amongst our ever growing 2.0, tech savvy, consumer.
So although Denis Cowley is definitely spot-on in developing this technology and integrating it into the future ways in which we communicate, as well as the new age of advertising and marketing, I really hope we don’t end up with a Marauders Map situation. If that becomes the case I might need to take an extended trip to the room of requirement.