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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

New geographic eReader called nomad from Spacing editor Shawn Micallef looking for your support

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Have you ever read a book set in real-life places and then looked at, say, Google Earth or Streetview to see where the story and action takes place? If so, you’re like me, and always trying to connect what I read to real-life places. I’ll also go visit places fictional novels were set when in other cities, to get an added layer of the story, real or not.

At the risk of sounding somewhat advertorial, a new project I’m working on may be of interest to our Spacing readers. It’s called nomad, and it’s an eReader application for smart phones and iPads. We’ve launched it with the Canadian Film Centre Media Lab’s new development-funding site called “Idea Boost” and we are, yes, looking for people to give our project a “boost” so we can make it real (a boost is a vote of confidence in the idea, no money required, and the “we” is myself and Tony O’Donoghue who is part of another Canadian success story, the Kobo reader).

Smart phones and tablets that know where you are have revolutionized the way we make our way around the city. Applications like Toronto’s Rocket Radar know where you’re standing, and tell you when and where the closest bus or streetcar is. In cities across Canada local apps help us figure out where to eat, get a bike flat tire fixed or even help with getting a date. Here at Spacing the success we’ve had with the magazine over the last nine years is due, in part, to trying to connect our stories to specific places as much as possible. We can relate to place, and connecting ideas to place helps them seem more real.

Imagine walking around Dublin reading Ulysses on an eReader that brings you right to the place the passage you’re reading happens at. Or one that finds relevant passages close to where you might currently be standing. nomad will launch using my book, Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto, which is intimately connected with this city’s geography, but there are loads of Canadian books that could be read using nomad, like Douglas Coupland’s City of Glass in Vancouver or Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz in Montreal. Eventually, you’ll be able to buy any geographically-connected book or magazine article and read it using nomad, which will automatically connect it to relevant places.

There are bunch of great, Canadian-made projects on the Idea Boost site that you should check out and boost if you like them, some geographic in nature, some not. We would, of course, appreciate a boost to nomad if you like it as well.