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Three Word World

In a world of instant location finding and navigation apps in many forms and languages, it's not too surprising to find someone to completely rethink a map. what3words came out of the need for a more accurate and easy to communicate location coordinates.

How many times have you tried to tell people to meet you at 41.40338, 2.17403? What if the landscape was rationalized as a series of three words, with each 3 meters by 3 meters of space given three common words to create a small phrase to describe specific locations.

Meet me at Jazzy.Drape.Shaky. I live at shower.holders.newspaper. I lost it around resolved.palace.groceries.


There is something humane about seeing landscape as a series of words, rather than a series of numbers. Maybe it's poetic, verses mathematical. Maybe it's abstract, verses quantitative. It's still the human (English!) domination of landscape, through a lens of the dominate species. But I can't help but feel a different affinity to space, place, and land with the addition of three words.


Landscape of language. A space conceived through words. While I'm sure it was all created through a computer and has no reasoning to its use of words based on the location, at least we move away from 'coordinates' as if we are a military fleet making our way upon some abstract grid.


What if the words within this system actually had relevance to the places it identified. Could historic sites have another level of meaning - The world trade center becomes ground.zero.memorial. Or spaces along the former Berlin wall have severed.wall.division


The identification of space and land lends meaning and understanding of it. Abstract things become alive with labels and titles. How we divide, name, and conceive the land has lead to how we treat it, honor it, or destroy it.

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© 2020 by J. Matthew Thomas

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