Many of the ways we talk about augmenting reality focus on reducing risk. By adding information to the bookstore, we reduce the risk that we buy a boring title and overpay for it. Augment the grocery store and we reduce the risk that we buy endangered, unsustainable fish or toxic glass cleaner manufactured by a gay-unfriendly conglomerate. Surrounding ourselves with information online – from authorities, friends, from the crowd – we make decisions in the physical world with increasing assurance that we’re getting the best deal, value or quality.
I worry about a world with less risk. With four stars shining over this trendy sushi bar, will I miss the unrated Uzbek teahouse down the street? Or the admittedly crappy dive bar that becomes a sentimental favorite? In a world rich with information, will I still stumble and explore? I don’t want to go back to a world where I can’t pull up record reviews on Allmusic.com… but I fell in love with music buying $2 cutout LPs in the back room of my local record store, stumbling through a forest of forgettable music to my own passions and tastes.
Geocaching augments reality in a different way. It adds a layer of the magical to the mundane.
There are at least 100 caches hidden within ten miles of my house. I’ve found fewer than 30 of them. Driving to the post office or the grocery store, I pass by them and smile at the secret knowledge I have that my neighbors lack – the specific stone that needs to be moved to reveal the hiding place. How many other stones have secrets hiding under them? What other games are played throughout the world, with secrets hiding in plain sight, invisible to us because we don’t know to look?"
Ethan Zuckerman, Geocaching: Augmenting Reality for Enhanced Serendipity, February 2, 2010
(the whole post is wonderful, and continues to inspire on a second read)