assignment=You have read “World and Screen ” by Nicholas Carr pg. 875-883. He argues that satellite navigation systems are not designed to deepen our involvement with our surroundings (876). What does he mean by that statement? Is his argument persuasive? Why or why not? In addition, how do you navigate to an unfamiliar place? Do you use a map? GPS? Landmarks? Street signs? Something else? Reflect on your preferences. Please respond to these questions in a post of a minimum of 150 words.
Article= “World and screen” NICHOLAS CARR is the author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains(2011) and Utopia Is Creepy(2016). His books about technology, economy, and culture have sparked much conversation on those topics, and the catchphrase Is Google Making Us Stupid? comes from his 2008 essay in the Atlantic. He blogs at roughtype.com and tweets from @roughtype. This essay comes from his book The Glass Cage: Automation and Us(2014) .
THE WORLD is a strange, changeable, and dangerous place. Getting around in it demands of any animal a great deal of effort, mental and physical. For ages, human beings have been creating tools to reduce the strain of travel. History is, among other things, a record of the discovery of ingenious new ways to ease our passage through our environs, to make it possible to cross greater and more daunting distances without getting lost, roughed up, or eaten. Simple maps and trail markers came first, then star maps and nautical charts and terrestrial globes, then instruments like sounding weights, quadrants, astrolabes, compasses, octants and sextants, telescopes, hourglasses, and chronometers. Lighthouses were erected along shorelines, buoys set in coastal waters. Roads were paved, signs posted, highways linked and numbered. It has, for most of us, been a long time since weve had to rely on our wits to get around.
Amerigo Vespucci, a fifteenth-century navigator, uses an astrolabe to find the Southern Cross.
GPS receivers and other automated mapping and direction-plotting devices are the latest additions to our navigational toolkit. They also give the old story a new and worrisome twist. Earlier navigational aids, particularly those available and affordable to ordinary folks, were just that: aids. They were designed to give travelers a greater awareness of the world around themto sharpen their sense of direction, provide them with advance warning of danger, highlight nearby landmarks and other points of orientation, and in general help them situate themselves in both familiar and alien settings. Satellite navigation systems can do all those things, and more, but theyre not designed to deepen our involvement with our surroundings. Theyre designed to relieve us of the need for such involvement. By taking control of the mechanics of navigation and reducing our own role to following routine commands turn left in five hundred yards, take the next exit, stay right, destination aheadthe systems, whether running through a dashboard, a smartphone, or a dedicated GPS receiver, end up isolating us from the environment. As a team of Cornell University researchers put it in a 2008 paper, With the GPS you no longer need to know where you are and where your destination is, attend to physical landmarks along the way, or get assistance from other people in the car and outside of it. The automation of wayfinding serves to inhibit the process of experiencing the physical world by navigation through it.
As is so often the case with gadgets and services that ease our way through life, weve celebrated the arrival of inexpensive GPS units. The New York Timeswriter David Brooks spoke for many when, in a 2007 op-ed titled The Outsourced Brain, he raved about the navigation system installed in his new car: I quickly established a romantic attachment to my GPS. I found comfort in her tranquil and slightly Anglophilic voice. I felt warm and safe following her thin blue line. His GPS goddess had liberated him from the age-old drudgery of navigation. And yet, he grudgingly confessed, the emancipation delivered by his in-dash muse came at a cost: After a few weeks, it occurred to me that I could no longer get anywhere without her. Any trip slightly out of the ordinary had me typing the address into her system and then blissfully following her satellite-fed commands. I found that I was quickly shedding all vestiges of geographic knowledge. The priceof convenience was, Brooks wrote, a loss of autonomy.2 The goddess was also a siren.
We want to see computer maps as interactive, high-tech versions of paper maps, but thats a mistaken assumption. . . . Traditional maps give us context. They provide us with an overview of an area and require us to figure out our current location and then plan or visualize the best route to our next stop. Yes, they require some workgood tools always dobut the mental effort aids our mind in creating its own cognitive map of an area. Map reading, research has shown, strengthens our sense of place and hones our navigational skillsin ways that can make it easier for us to get around even when we dont have a map at hand. We seem, without knowing it, to call on our subconscious memories of paper maps in orienting ourselves in a city or town and determining which way to head to arrive at our destination.In one revealing experiment, researchers found that peoples navigational sense is actually sharpest when theyre facing norththe3
The maps generated by satellite-linked computers are different. They usually provide meager spatial information and few navigational cues. Instead of requiring us to puzzle out where we are in an area, a GPS device simply sets us at the center of the map and then makes the world circulate around us. In this miniature parody of the pre- Copernican universe, we can get around without needing to know where we are, where weve been, or which direction were heading. We just need an address or an intersection, the name of a building or a shop, to cue the devices calculations. Julia Frankenstein, a German cognitive psychologist who studies the minds navigational sense, believes its likely that the more we rely on technology to find our way, the less we build up our cognitive maps. Because computer navigation systems provide only bare-bones route information, without the spatial context of the whole area, she explains, our brains dont receive the raw material required to form rich memories of places. Developing a cognitive map from this reduced information is a bit like trying to get an entire musical piece from a few notes.4 Nicholas Carr cites an interesting mix of scholarly and popular sources.
Other scientists agree. A British study found that drivers using paper maps developed stronger memories of routes and landmarks than did those relying on turn-by-turn instructions from satellite systems. After completing a trip, the map users were able to sketch more precise and detailed diagrams of their routes. The findings, reported the researchers, provide strong evidence that the use of a vehicle navigation system will impact negatively on the formation of drivers cognitive maps.5 A study of drivers conducted at the University of Utah 1530 Paper maps dont just shepherd us from one same way maps point. place to the next; they teach us how to think about space.
found evidence of inattentional blindness in GPS users, which impaired their wayfinding performance and their ability to form visual memories of their surroundings.
Which raises the obvious question: Who cares?As long as we arrive at our destination, does it really matter whether we maintain our navigational sense or offload it to a machine? An Inuit elder on Igloolik may have good reason to bemoan the adoption of GPS technology as a cultural tragedy, but those of us living in lands crisscrossed by well- marked roads and furnished with gas stations, motels, and 7-Elevens long ago lost both the custom of and the capacity for prodigious feats of wayfinding. Our ability to perceive and interpret topography, especially in its natural state, is already much reduced. Paring it away further, or dispensing with it altogether, doesnt seem like such a big deal, particularly if in exchange we get an easier go of it.
But while we may no longer have much of a cultural stake in the conservation of our navigational prowess, we still have a personal stake in it. We are, after all, creatures of the earth. Were not abstract dots proceeding along thin blue lines on computer screens. Were real beings in real bodies in real places. Getting to know a place takes effort, but it ends in fulfillment and in knowledge. It provides a sense of personal accomplishment and autonomy, and it also provides a sense of belonging, a feeling of being at home in a place rather than passing through it. Whether practiced by a caribou hunter on an ice floe or a bargain hunter on an urban street, wayfinding opens a path from alienation to attachment. We may grimace when we hear people talk of finding themselves, but the figure of speech, however vain and shopworn, acknowledges our deeply held sense that who we areis tangled up in where we are. We cant extract the self from its surroundings, at least not without leaving something important behind.
A GPS device, by allowing us to get from point A to point B with the least possible effort and nuisance, can make our lives easier, perhaps imbuing us, as David Brooks suggests, with a numb sort of bliss. But what it steals from us, when we turn to it too often, is the joy and satisfaction of apprehending the world around usand of making that world a part of us. Tim Ingold, an anthropologist at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, draws a distinction between two very different modes of travel: wayfaringand transport. Wayfaring, he explains, is our most fundamental way of being in the world. Immersed in the landscape, attuned to its textures and features, the wayfarer enjoys an experience of movement in which action and perception are intimately coupled. Wayfaring becomes an ongoing process of growth and development, or self-renewal. Transport, on the other hand, is essentially destination-oriented. Its not so much a process of discovery alonga way of life as a mere carrying across, from location to location, of people and goods in such a way as to leave their basic natures unaffected. In transport, the traveler doesnt actually move in any meaningful way. Rather, he is moved, becoming a passenger in his own body.”
Wayfaring is messier and less efficient than transport, which is why it has become a target for automation. If you have a mobile phone with Google Maps, says Michael Jones, an executive in Googles mapping division, you can go anywhere on the planet and have confidence that we can give you directions to get to where you want to go safely and easily. As a result, he declares, No human ever has to feel lost again.8 That certainly sounds appealing, as if some basic problem in our existence had been solved forever. And it fits the Silicon Valley obsession with using software to rid peoples lives of friction. But the more you think about it, the more you realize that to never confront the possibility of getting lost is to live in a state of perpetual dislocation. If you never have to worry about not knowing where you are, then you never have to know where you are. It is also to live in a state of dependency, a ward of your phone and its apps.
Problems produce friction in our lives, but friction can act as a catalyst, pushing us to a fuller awareness and deeper understanding of our situation. When we circumvent, by whatever means, the demand a place makes of us to find our way through it, the writer Ari Schulman observed in his 2011 New Atlantisessay GPS and the End of the Road, we end up foreclosing the best entry we have into inhabiting that placeand, by extension, to really beinganywhere at all.9
We may foreclose other things as well. Neuroscientists have made a series of breakthroughs in understanding how the brain perceives and remembers space and location, and the discoveries underscore the elemental role that navigation plays in the workings of mind and memory. . . .
In a 2013 article in Nature Neuroscience, Edvard Moser and his colleague György Buzsáki provided extensive experimental evidence that the neuronal mechanisms that evolved to define the spatial relationship among landmarks can also serve to embody associations among objects, events and other types of factual information. Out of such associations we weave the memories of our lives. It may well be that the brains navigational senseits ancient, intricate way of plottingand recording movement through spaceis the evolutionary font of all Whats more than a little scary is what happens when that font goes dry. Our spatial sense tends to deteriorate as we get older, and in the memory. worst cases we lose it altogether. One of the earliest and most debilitating symptoms of dementia, including Alzheimers disease, is hippocampal and entorhinal degeneration and the consequent loss of locational memory. Victims begin to forget where they are. Véronique Bohbot, a research psychiatrist and memory expert at McGill University in Montreal, has conducted studies demonstrating that the way people exercise their navigational skills influences the functioning and even the size of the hippocampusand may provide protection against the deterioration of memory. The harder people work at building cognitive maps of space, the stronger their underlying memory circuits seem to become. They can actually grow gray matter in the hippocampusa phenomenon documented in London cab driversin a way thats analogous to the building of muscle mass through physical exertion.But when they simply follow turn-by-turn instructions in a robotic fashion, Bohbot warns, they dont stimulate their hippocampus and as a result may leave themselves more susceptible to memory loss. Bohbot worries that, should the hippocampus begin to atrophy from a lack of use in navigation, the result could be a general loss of memory and a growing risk of dementia. Society is geared in many ways toward shrinking the hippocampus, she told an interviewer. In the next twenty years, I think were going to see dementia occurring earlier and earlier.
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