Map Literacy

How GPS Eats Our Brains

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.

Affluent Parents Afraid of Mud, Injury and Maps

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.”

Via Mapperz.

Jalopnik’s Guide to Map Reading

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.

A Paper Maps Renaissance

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.

More Responses to Mary Spence

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 Rebuts Spence

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.

The Threat of Internet Mapping

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.