Sometimes great links sit in my to-do list for far too long. This is one of the best: I should have posted it a year and a half ago. Their site isn’t responding right now, but when it gets back online you must go and read “Global Impositioning Systems,” Alex Hutchinson’s article in the November 2009 issue of The Walrus. (Or find a cached version if you can.) It’s about how regular GPS use may be making our brains’ ability to navigate atrophy, and brings to my attention a disorder I hadn’t heard of before: “developmental topographical disorientation” — an inability to form cognitive maps. (If you know anyone who cannot deviate from their normal commuting route without breaking out in a cold sweat, you’ve probably seen this in action.) A must-read, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about it sooner.
“Is [this] where we’ve ended up, with a younger generation that can’t go three blocks without being told by a electronic voice where to turn?” asks Jeff Stricker in Saturday’s Star Tribune. Another one of those GPS-vs.-paper-maps pieces we see from time to time in the press.
Previously: The Passing of the Navigator.
A Vanderbilt University study is looking at whether playing video games improves map-reading and navigational skills. Of interest: 10 hours of first-person-shooter-style video games appears to make up the gender differences in navigational skills. Via @OrdnanceSurvey.
The Telegraph’s headline: Countryside ban for children because mum’s [sic] cannot read maps and hate mud. Less sensationally (and less sexist): researchers at Hertfordshire University found that affluent suburban families in the south of England were keeping their children away from the countryside because it was outside their comfort zone; among the reasons, a fear of injury and of getting dirty, and an inability to get around with a map. From the Telegraph article:
Debbie Pearlman Hougie, a senior lecturer in rural geography at the university, said: “None of the mothers I spoke to could read a map.
“I put a 1:25,000 Ordinance Survey map on the table and they didn’t know where to start, they also didn’t know anything about rights of way.
“There were stories of families who had gone for a walk and ended up on someone’s land and got shouted at and never went back.
“They did not know how to make up circular walks or work out where it might be safe to go cycling with children.”
Jalopnik has a guide to map reading for those too reliant on navigation systems. “A dangerous norm is emerging. The widespread adoption of navigation systems is dumbifying the American navigator, making them incapable of reading a map, much less understanding it. To rectify that, here’s the basics of getting where you’re going with paper.” It’s unexpectedly earnest in tone, rather than mocking the map-illiterate. Via APB.
Writing for the Courier-Mail, Kathleen Noonan conflates map literacy with the ability to draw your own map. Responding to the tendency to go to an online map and print something out instead of sketching a quick map on a napkin… • Continue reading this entry.
While a Virginian-Pilot columnist decries the fact that kids these days don’t know how to read a map, and equates map reading with learning to swim (via GeoCarta), an ABC Australia program, The World Today, reports a sudden surge in… • Continue reading this entry.
Apropos of the whole OMG-GPS-is-going-to-fail thing, the Grauniad’s Tim Dowling has some advice for drivers who might suddenly have to do without their in-car navigation systems, in the form of a FAQ for paper maps. Some examples: I need to… • Continue reading this entry.
The ESRI Mapping Center blog points to a new booklet from the British Cartographic Society: Cartography: An Introduction, co-written by Giles Darkes and Mary Spence, is part of the BCS’s Better Mapping Campaign (see previous entry); its aim “is… • Continue reading this entry.
More reactions to British Cartographic Society president Mary Spence’s complaint about satellite navigation and Internet mapping. Ed Parsons, who was quoted in the original coverage, calls this “the annual ‘shock horror — nobody can read maps’ story” and a “desperate… • Continue reading this entry.
GIS Lounge responds to Mary Spence’s complaint about computer mapping: “What she fails to recognize is that online mapping, particularly efforts such as Google Maps and Yahoo! Maps and other online mapping applications have opened up access to geographic data… • Continue reading this entry.
At the Royal Geographic Society’s annual conference in London, British Cartographic Society president Mary Spence complained that satellite navigation and Internet mapping were obliterating knowledge of the landmarks lining the way from point A to B. See coverage from the… • Continue reading this entry.
The problem with the ABC News article entitled “Will GPS Make Us Dumb?” is that it makes a false juxtaposition: map-reading skills with navigation devices’ turn-by-turn directions: “One effect of an increased dependence on GPS will be that peoples’ ability… • Continue reading this entry.
One third of British motorists cannot read a basic road map, according to a survey of 1,000 adults undertaken by an insurance company. Over a third of motorists struggled to read a four-figure grid reference and a staggering 83 per… • Continue reading this entry.
About 20 per cent of respondents to a Nickelodeon survey of adults and children think that map reading is a redundant skill, the New York Daily News reports, putting map reading in the same category as spelling and using a… • Continue reading this entry.
An interesting question posted to Ask MetaFilter last night: “It’s a cliché about people from the USA that they are ignorant of geography. Not just world geography but their own as well. … So, is there some explanation in the… • Continue reading this entry.
If you’re reading this, you probably like maps, and quite likely can read them without much effort. So it might be easy to forget that map literacy isn’t necessarily a given, but it is important. Why Some Students Have Trouble… • Continue reading this entry.