Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Smithsonian asks, "Have GPS devices taken the fun out of navigation?"

Having lived most of my life without them, and having personally seen the crutch that they tend to become quite quickly, I believe that they have.

First of all, maps are awesome.  Who couldn't love all the information that is packed in all those differently colored lines and symbols?  I fondly recall the mental exercise of correlating the actual earth and it's useful features with the flat information on a map, and the power that gave me to move freely and confidently across the face of the planet, arriving exactly where intended using only the map and the power of the mind.

I think this finding is instructive:

  "...it’s interesting to note that the number of wilderness rescues increased by more than 50 percent over the same time period. This could be partly because paper maps offer those who use them a grasp of geography and an understanding of their environment that most electronic devices don’t.

There is no map that is better than a good topo map of a wilderness area.  I spent countless hours in my youth studying them to plan out my next venture into the great wild.  Armed with the mental map of the region, the instances of getting lost were few and far between, and when the unlikely did happen, it was only a matter of time before the bearings were regained. 

 It is very true that the process of building an understanding of the lay of the land with a map and your imagination is lost to a great extent when one only uses GPS; when you limit yourself to following the smooth voice from the dashboard commanding you to "turn left in 100 yards."

 


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