The effects of GPS and smart phones on our experience of the city

I’m thinking a lot about location, presence, distance, space, maps and related concepts lately.

Since I’m living in a city which is still relatively new, I’ve come to rely on the GPS map functionality of my smart phone. It’s amazing how quickly we get used to this and how it affects our experience of the city. Navigating the city like this turns it into generic space, each location interchangeable for the other. (In Barcelona, this is amplified by the regularity of the grid pattern of the Eixample.)

The process of getting familiar with a place becomes unnecessary. We are strangers and have just arrived here, yet we already know our way.

The absence of GPS not only forces us to get to know a place, but also its people, when we ask for directions.

Unique features of places fade into the background. For example: we pay less attention to street names. They become less important for identifying a location when we have a GPS and compass in our phones.

GPS also seems to affect the space between current location and destination. An algorithm sends us alongs the most efficient route. A conventional map still required us to understand what was between here and there. Routing applications have gotten so good that we don’t need to care anymore.

3 thoughts on “The effects of GPS and smart phones on our experience of the city

  1. Pingback: Did we ever look up? | Bert Balcaen

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