In teaching my undergrads to use literature databases, I use the analogy that bibliographies are a primitive form of hypertext: they’re a way for one document to reference related documents. Also, like hypertext, they’re uni-directional. This is actually a way for me to introduce students to Web of Science: bibliographies allow you to move backwards in time, but how do you move forwards in time? I get considerable mileage with undergrads out of the idea of hypertexts in the physical world. (The idea of hypertext implemented in microfilm really blows their circuits.)

So this struck me as particularly groovy when I saw it on Slashdot, a story about Grafedia (Wired also has an article). The idea is that a word or phrase written as graffiti in the real world is connected to some electronic content. You send an email or SMS to & you get that content back in an email message.

So far the content that you can put behind the Grafedia is only images, which while interesting, is pretty limited. But the potential here is so much greater. There was one grafedia link featured on the grafedia site on a McDonald’s sign. What about tying that to a document produced by McSpotlight? Or grafedia in stores tied to product information, a la the AURA project? And that’s just ideas for being subversive, I can think of commercial applications as well: value-add content as a service provided only to members of whatever. Passwords provided only to those who can retrieve them. Etc. AURA’s tagline is Annotate the Planet. What a cool idea. Like a precursor to the proxnet.