Do People Even Get Lost Anymore?May 14, 2012 No Comments
By: Jeremy Holt, GIS Consultant
Back in the olden days, like the 1990’s, it used to be pretty easy to just drive around and purposefully get lost. We would drive around aimlessly with high school friends and some tunes, seeing where we’d end up and wondering how we’d get back. With our origin being the city of Eau Claire, for some odd reason even with all of our random turns we always seemed to end up in Cadott. Perhaps there is some odd magnetic pull due to it being located half-way between the equator and the north pole.
For longer road trips, there was a lot of pre-planning. Maybe there was an old AAA road atlas or state gazetteer in the car with some notes and highlighter but still a chance to end up turned around or off of the path and the only info we’d get would be roads and maybe parks and camping spots.
One complication was navigating the big cities. Even if I thought I knew where I was going in a big city, the amount of traffic and one-way streets could cause some anxiety (mostly between my wife and me) and the cumulative minutes spent looking for a specific parking ramp entrance seemed like hours.
Enter the age of web map services ala Google/Bing, smartphones and navigation systems in cars, and the knowledge of every coffee shop and parking ramp along the way. Gone is the stereotype of the man not stopping to ask for directions per his partner’s plea. But also gone is the surprise of turning down a side street in a small town and discovering a quaint cafe or unique roadside marker.
It’s been so common place to put in point A, get directions to point B and find yourself where you need to be and every point of interest in between. Doing this answers more questions than just how long will it take to get there. You now know if there is a place to get Indian food and a good IPA once you’re there. I find myself doing this for destinations even less than 10 miles away. A side effect of this is that one can tend to absorb the information they see when panning around a site like Google maps and it seems that in the context of the web or screen, so even if you did want to go a different way home, you kinda already know which way will get you there. Another side effect is a more relaxed passenger, who no longer needs to do “co-pilot” duties. This is a huge benefit if your co-pilot never learned how to read a map.
Thinking about my kids, this is just another one of those things that have always just been there. They missed out on the “science-fiction” aspect of the ability to have a computer tell you all about your surroundings; it’s just the way things are. If they get bored with Angry Birds, they could just launch a map, zoom and pan around a bit, point out some geographic features, or just trust that when we need to go on a trip we’ve already looked at the map and gotten some turn by turn directions with construction info and traffic delays and the location of a cool playground. When they start driving, for good or bad, I’m pretty sure they won’t be getting lost.Share on Facebook Tags: Jeremy HoltGeneral