Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why I'm Hostile Toward GPS

I don't like using GPS because I have good locational awareness. For others who don't have strong locational awareness, I have no real point of comparison.

GPS, or the idea of it that I am opposed to, is the function in which it gives precise directions on which turns to take where and how to get someone somewhere. I am not opposed to it as a map. I love maps, I think they are there to fill in our brains' gaps in specifics of scale and position. I use maps a lot, before and after and during travel.

The reason I am so opposed to punching in an address and not paying attention anymore is that the mere act of driving requires locational awareness. Where is your car on the road, where is your car in relation to the other cars around you, where is your car in relation to the next stop sign or stoplight? You have to be aware of these things while driving. GPS removes your awareness of everything beyond the immediate, but when it comes right down to it, your use of GPS is for that space close around, for that stop sign, should you turn there? So by using GPS, you are removing the context of each particular location you are in.

When using GPS all I am thinking is stop sign, stop sign, stop light, freeway, left freeway, drive an hour. When not using GPS I'm taking note of field next to stop sign, mini-mall, hills over there. My job driving is to be aware, so why on earth would I want to let the GPS become my awareness of the context of every location?

I don't think GPS is like transitioning from paper to the internet. That is a massive change in how communication works, it changes the amount of work and thought we have to use to get stuff done. But driving, using GPS I become more and more reliant without much benefit, whereas not using GPS I become stronger and stronger and more aware. It takes a lot longer to figure out an area when you're guided by wire rather than having the whole space.

The world is location location location, and I'd much rather be aware of how they are all connected and related than lose sight of that greater space for the blind trust of stop sign, stop sign, turn left.