Tag Archives: navigation

Are we losing our way?

By Rebecca Collins and David McCullough 

A sunny weekend in Britain sees walkers flocking to areas of outstanding national beauty, eager to enjoy some of the UK’s most beautiful landscapes.  Whilst most walkers go prepared with appropriate clothing, footwear, refreshment, and navigational tools, a growing number set out ill-equipped, sometimes finding themselves in danger as a result.  This year alone, one group of walkers had to be guided down off Blencathra in the Lake District, having failed to take appropriate navigation equipment, and three separate incidents in Ambleside (also in the Lake District) resulted from members of the public attempting to navigate snow and ice-bound mountain passes.  Local mountain rescuers later stated that the only navigational technologies that can provide reliable information about weather conditions are “your eyes and common sense; you can’t blame your sat-nav.”

In an attempt to tackle growing numbers of mountain rescue call-outs by ill-prepared walkers, this summer a team comprised of representatives from the National Trust, Cumbria Constabulary and the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, questioned all walkers at Wasdale Head as to their preparedness for their journey.  Learning more about walkers’ levels of preparation is part of an attempt to ensure the future sustainability of volunteer-run mountain rescue operations, at a time when growing numbers of people depend solely on GPS-based technologies – primarily smartphone apps and in-car sat-nav systems – for everyday navigation.  In recent years questions have been asked as to whether over-reliance on these technologies is having a detrimental effect on our innate way-finding ability.

In our recent paper for Area, “‘Are we losing our way?’ Navigational aids, socio-sensory way-finding and the spatial awareness of young adults” we report on an experiment designed to explore the impact of different navigational technologies on way-finding ability and sense of place.  The experiment responds directly to the 2012 call by Axon, Speake and Crawford in the same journal for geographers to engage more actively with the potentialities at the intersection of evolving navigational technologies and spatial and cartographic literacy.

The experiment required participants to navigate between two points in a series of towns unknown to them, using a different navigational aid each time.  On one route groups used a GPS compatible unit on a smartphone; on a second route they used a paper Ordnance Survey map; and on the third route they were asked to reach the destination with no navigational aids beyond clues in the built and natural environment and their sense of direction.  Following completion of these navigational tasks, participants were individually interviewed about their experience of way-finding using these different methods, and they were asked to draw sketch maps showing as much detail of each route as they could remember.

Although all our participants (without exception) claimed that the GPS tool (i.e. a smartphone) was their preferred navigational aid, the routes navigated using it were described overwhelmingly negatively, as “cold” and “boring”, and were characterised by scant recollection of details from the journey, regardless of which route (and town) the GPS was used to navigate.  In contrast, the routes navigated using the paper OS map were viewed overwhelmingly positively and were characterised by detailed recollections of the routes, including interactions with people and observations of the natural environment.  Despite this, the paper map as a tool was described overwhelmingly negatively, in terms including “not practical”, “out of date” and “hassle”.

Our findings raise interesting questions as to how to strike a balance between the convenience, familiarity, and potential of digital navigational tools and those characteristics of non-digital methods which appear to be better attuned to engendering place attentiveness.

About the authors: Rebecca Collins is Deputy Head of Department and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Geography and International Development, University of Chester. David McCullough is a Department of Geography and International Development, University of Chester alumnus. 

References

Axon, S. , Speake, J. and Crawford, K. (2012), ‘At the next junction, turn left’: attitudes towards Sat Nav use. Area, 44: 170-177. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01086.x
McCullough D, Collins R. “Are we losing our way?” Navigational aids, socio‐sensory way‐finding and the spatial awareness of young adultsArea2018;00:1–10. https://doi.org/10.1111/area.12478

 

 

 

When is a ‘map’ not a map? When it’s a Sat Nav!

By Stephen Axon, Janet Speake and Kevin Crawford

Dangerous, fun or pretty sweet? Attitudes towards Sat Nav use
(Artist: George Sneyd)

The rapid popularisation and extensive distribution of Sat Nav technologies represents the first widespread adoption of location-aware systems for journey planning and navigation. Sat Nav technologies illustrate the advancement and accessibility of technology used for journey planning and navigation. Despite the advantages, the media tend to focus on the negativities of over-dependence on the technology, reduced spatial awareness as well as the potential hazards of Sat Nav use.

The first Sat Nav summit in London convened by the Department of Transport in March 2012 started to address the blunders associated with Sat Nav use. The key issues discussed at the summit were to identify solutions to problems of out-of-date Sat Nav technologies. The Sat Nav summit sought to address concerns that old information on Sat Nav systems is leading inappropriate vehicles down inappropriate roads.

In our paper, ‘At the next junction, turn left’, we explore geography undergraduates’ attitudes towards, and experiences of, Sat Nav use as well as its impacts on spatial awareness and cartographic literacy. In doing so, we have started to address a major gap in the geographical literature.

The navigational capacities and technological aspects of Sat Nav are regarded positively whereas its technological, safety and financial attributes are considered negatively. Distinctions are made between traditional navigational technologies such as paper-based maps and Sat Nav. Crucially, the digital spatial representations of Sat Nav are not perceived as maps but as a distinctive navigational tool. Concerns are also expressed that Sat Nav could reduce the ability to read paper-based maps and interpret spatial data.

Sat Nav use is intrinsically changing people’s wayfinding behaviour, processes and practices of navigation, and understandings of what ‘maps’ are and do. Fundamentally, Sat Nav is not viewed, or used, in the same way as more traditional technologies of navigation. We argue that geographers should engage more actively with interdisciplinary dialogues on people’s changing perspectives on wayfinding, navigation and map design.

The authors: Stephen Axon is a doctoral candidate in Geography, Dr Janet Speake is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography and Dr Kevin Crawford is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography at the Department of Geography, Liverpool Hope University.

Axon S, Speake J and Crawford K 2012 ‘At the next junction, turn left’: attitudes towards Sat Nav use Area DOI: 10.1111/j.1475.4762.2012.01086.x

BBC News 2012 Sat-nav summit to tackle blunders 6 March (Accessed 8 March 2012)

Department for Transport 2012 Government’s first Sat Nav summit 6 March (Accessed 8 March 2012)

Exploring explorer’s logbooks for insights into past climate change.

Captain James Cook, Lord Sandwich, Daniel Solander and John Hawkesworth writing the world through their scientific research and publications.

Captain James Cook, Lord Sandwich, Daniel Solander and John Hawkesworth writing the world through their scientific research and publications.

by Jo Norcup.

Researchers digitising over 300 logbooks from 18th and 19th century explorer vessels such as Captain James Cook’s Discovery and Resolution and William Bligh’s Bounty, have begun scrutinising the climatic data collected for navigation purposes which may allow oceanographers and climatologists’ access to a unique record of weather data.  While there are plentiful ways of accessing past climate data from the earth’s landmasses, it is difficult to access information concerning climatic changes in different locations across the earth’s oceans. In the absence of marine chronometers invented by John Harrison in the mid 18th century but not widely used for another century, the meticulous accounts of wind direction, wind speed, atmospheric pressure, temperature and ice formation in logbooks give insights and raise further areas of enquiry for researchers working with these archives in Kew, London.

The historiography of such an archive raises broader questions concerning the importance of collaborative humanities and scientific research, and the unique position geographical enquiry has in making connections across different cultures of research practise. Moreover, as David Livingstone notes (2005) reading such publications raises broader philosophical questions about the histories of scientific discoveries, their practice, and their relationship to the making and remaking of geographical knowledges.

60% world Read the news report from the times

60% world Read Livingstone D N (2005) Science, text and space: thoughts on the geography of reading Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers