<Image Mapa antiguo de America del Sur – thejourney1972>
We have only recently got a SatNav system for the car (it's invaluable if you are towing a caravan, no matter how small and trendy, as doing 3-point turns is not easy, or popular). Using it has made me reflect on how the process of digitisation and connectivity changes behaviour and our relation to certain artefacts. I think what is true of SatNav and maps, is probably true across all forms of content.
Here are the changes as I see them:
- The need for a particular skill (in this case map reading) which was previously thought essential becames largely irrelevant.
- This democratises the behaviour for use by nearly all member of society (navigation).
- The skill becomes highly specialised then, and possibly as a result, highly valued when it is needed.
- We gain in functionality because the community can create content – we have map mashups, numerous filters placed on maps, regular updates, recommended routes, new voices (Darth Vader "You have reached the dark side), etc.
- The presence of the tool begins to alter behaviour. A small example, but when driving in France over the summer, we were more likely to explore because we could put in a destination, or a place of interest and not have to be concerned how we would get back to our original destination – the SatNav will do that for us. It has also removed the need to shout at each other while wrestling with a map.
- We lose some of the richness and affection that is attached to a physical artefact, particularly with a history, in this case, maps – these are a thing of romantic wonder. Authors will not write of SatNav systems:
hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all
the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces
on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a
map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, 'When I grow up I will go there.'"