Posted by: clholoman | September 6, 2011

It’s a long, long way from there to here

[3 posts in 3 days! Should I be stockpiling?]

I hope you know They select from great longform (duh) journalism, both old and new. And you can have it sent to you by e-mail or even your Kindle!

Anyway, today they featured a really nice article from a publication I don’t know, The New Atlantis, called GPS and the End of the Road by Ari Schulman. One of the minor themes of this blog is about space, place, maps,  etc. Schulman has some very interesting thoughts on how GPS devices may change the way we think, or at least the way we experiance place. I also think, by the way, that his writing is simply terrific. Nothing flashy, just well-chosen words put together with clarity.

It seems that it is part of a larger project on Place and Placelessness in America. I haven’t had a chance to look at the other stuff, but look forward to it. Bonus points for using the art of Edward Hopper, one of my favorites.

Post title is a corruption of the title of a song I was made familiar with by Nanci Griffith, although it is by English songwriter Ralph McTell.


And yes. there’s still a long post coming.



  1. I really enjoyed Schulman’s article. He has provided a thought out (perhaps too much so) argument for something I have long observed and wondered about. Our children seem amused when Kate or I want to look up someplace on a map, even if we are using MapQuest or Google rather than the trusty atlas or street map. “Why don’t you just use the GPS?” I can still recall those long gone days when a family vacation was always preceded by an evening of ‘reading the map.’ My father would lay out the map on the dining room table to plot out his route and we kids would crowd around to ‘see’ where we were going and what we might pass along the way. I can also recall the times I have moved to a new and unfamiliar city with the expected ‘getting lost’ as I tried to find office and shops not only being a necessary cost, but in a very real way, my introduction to my new surrounds. So, I am amazed that my children’s sense of their world seems to be a connection of points, A to B. Even routes they have traveled before do not easily become familiar to them. In one sense their reliance on GPS makes them more intrepid travelers. They do not worry about getting lost They trust that their technology can find the way to any where they might want to go. So I have wondered whether my children’s sense of their spatial world is becoming significantly different than my own. I suppose Schulman is arguing that yes, it is. Of course I worry about what my children’s generation is losing in their reliance on technology to mediate their experience of location, but I also sometimes wonder what they must be gaining too. Their world seems much bigger than mine was at their ages; the boundaries seem much less sharply defined.

  2. Thanks for commenting!!

    We really do cede control to the machines; we noticed again while traveling last weekend what a pain in the neck it is to try to look for alternate routes or just generally explore options on the GPS. Some of our best travel experiences have been following the “blue highways” on the map, just for a hoot.

    When does Skynet become self-aware?

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