First Life is a project funded by the call Smart Cities and Communities and Social innovation of Ministry of University and Research of Italy with over 700,000 Euros for young reseachers under 30 years.
First Life proposes a new social network which revises the basis of existing ones and has the following characteristics:
1) It offers a geo-referenced representation like Google Maps does, but it is more dense and interactive.
2) It does not have a global scope, but it is focused on neighours, the dimension where we live our everyday life.
3) It is mediated in that every neighbourhood is associated with a journalist which re-elaborates the information put by citizens on the social network and manages a local newspaper proposing topics of interests for the citizens.
By more dense and interactive we mean that the citizens can not only put opinions on restaurants like it happens now, but they can put information about every aspect of the local reality they live in, from schools to playgrounds, from entertainment events to local news. First life will be populated with entities downloaded from open data (hospitals, shops, etc.) or added by users, which can create their own forms describing the fields of the entities and classifying them according to an ontology of social practices. For every entity, users can add information, blogs, pictures, or organize online events, like chats to discuss related issues.
The goal of First Life is to make citizens more connected, more conscious of the place they live in and more active. First Life harvests the knowledge and services which are now scattered around many websites often unknown to the wide public websites, focusing them on a local area. It reduces the overloading of information by filtering them on a locality principle. It can be the basis of e-participation activities, it can be used to advertise new shops, services or events in the local area, it allows people to organize their own events, to start discussions on local issues.
A bulletin board, like the wall of Facebook, updates the users with the news and messages concerning the area they are currently in and the activities they are carrying on (cycling, shopping, etc.), rather than with the messages from a circle of friends.
First Life is be accessible on mobile, with a 3D rendering of the local map or an augmented reality approach, where information will be added.
Technologically the project starts from opensource initiatives like OpenStreetMap and software developed on the model of existing social networks such as Apache Accumulo, a key/value store, scalable, high performance data storage system, based on Google's BigTable design.
The business model ensuring the sustainability of the project is to be financed by advertisements and by contribution of citizens which want to become stakeholders of the local newspapers. Starting from a first test neighbourhood, First Life will be extended to other ones and other cities using a franchising mechanism.