The Unknown World vs. GPS

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  08.15.11 | 2:24 PM ET

Ari N. Schulman asks what “the greatest revolution in navigation since the map and compass” means for how we move through the world.

When driving down the highway, you can now expect to see, in a sizable portion of the cars around you, GPS screens glowing on dashboards and windshields. What these devices promise, like the opening of the Western frontier, and like the automobile and the open road, is a greater freedom—although the freedom promised by GPS is of a very strange new sort.

Toward the end of the piece, Schulman tackles the Kerouac question: “How, then, would the new technology of location affect an ‘On the Road’ today?”

Can we imagine its characters, and by extension ourselves, escaping into the Western night, navigating by GPS and choosing where to go with Yelp, supplied with surrounding-relevant multimedia by GeoTour, encountering city streets with their iPhones held up and overlaying the view, and still having the same adventure? Something about this image is absurd. To better appreciate what and why that might be, it is helpful to step back and consider On The Road‘s forerunner in American wayfaring legend, the classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

(Via Andrew Sullivan)

1 Comment for The Unknown World vs. GPS

Michael Anderson - Backpack Traveler 08.19.11 | 6:53 AM ET

I think with all new technologies—travel related or otherwise - its just a matter of how we choose to use it. Just because we have a phone in our pocekt doesn’t mean we have to talk 24/7 and just because we have a GPS that can pin point our location in a remote village, doesn’t mean we have to give up the joy of stumbling our way through an unknown local. It’s just there if we need it. - Michael.

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