Footprints lets you explore the lives that have come before you in the places you spend your time. Not just the lives of famous people. The lives of your ancestors, all your predecessors, the people who built your house or taught in your school or played in your neighborhood park. It adds this layer of ghosts to our world that keeps the dead with us, that reminds us we're part of a long history, and reminds us to think what footprints we want to leave too. Footprints breaks down the wall between life and the end of life, to make both richer.
You open Footprints to a map. Like any map application, its centered on your current location. You see the usual streetscape (think Google Maps) but you also see footprints for people who are no longer with us. Footprints are flagged with different colors (e.g. your ancestors, maybe people from different decades, maybe people with different careers, maybe people who died from different causes).
You can jump to different locations on the map, zoom out to see your whole neighborhood, or zoom in on a specific site. You can filter the Footprints so you can focus on one group (e.g. those who lived here, those who visited, those who died most recently). Footprints for people who have died since your last visit to the app are highlighted. This alerts you to death in your community, gives you a chance to learn more about the person who died, and reach out to the family if you want.
You can poke at footprints to learn more. The pop-up quick-view gives you a name, the years of his or her life, and some links to more details that are available. You might click to learn more about the family that built your house. Or all the people who have taken summer evening walks along your street, like you do. Or the firemen who kept watch over the years. Or the neighbor who you didn't know well who just passed away. Links to social media posts from the individuals would give you a glimpse into their lives, who they were, what they cared about, and what the world looked like when they lived, worked, or traveled here.
Footprints wouldn't need to create data -- it would just need to pull data, integrate it, and provide a great map-based user experience. The data would come from all the cloud applications we carry around all the time anyway. People would "sign off" in their cloud accounts that they would like their data made available posthumously for use in Footprints. The location data for lives would come from the GPS data tracked and stored from all the devices and apps we use (e.g. Google Maps, Facebook, cell phone carriers, etc.). The social media posts and content would come from the social media accounts of individuals. News stories that relate to people and places would come from all of the publicly accessible media sources on the internet. Footprints could add information for people who lived before the Internet and mobile device age too. It could pull data from genealogy sites and public records to add history. All together Footprints could offer a rich look into the lives of all the people who have been here before us.
Footprints might be a way for family and friends to share their memories too. They could trace the experiences of their loved one, and perhaps add their own posts at different locations, sharing more about the person and the experience that happened there. There would need to be some sort of vetting / security involved to make sure only appropriate people and appropriate comments are added to the history that is made up of the individual's actual movements and posts.
The Choice to Participate
One of your choices, one of your acts at the end of life, could be to authorize your presence in Footprints. It could be one more small way of leaving something good for everyone who comes after you. You could also choose to authorize your presence in Footprints at any point in your life, like choosing to be an organ donor. Then you would know that, no matter what might happen, your experience in life will be shared with others.