Why I will try and get back into a street directory

Global Positioning Satellite services have been in the public domain for a fair few years now, and with increasing inexpense and reliability will probably overtake the humble street directory (or UBD as they are commonly referred to in my cultural vernacular) in the years to come. Why shouldn’t it? It’s route is straight, narrow and correcting should any misstep occur. Furthermore it can accurately (sometimes with scary, traffic-predicting precision) how long a trip will take, how to avoid toll roads and so on. These advancements are all well and good, and when in a rush I could not recommend them enough over the street directory.

However in an absence of any pressing engagement, I’ve decided to forgo this technological marvel for quick glances at the street directory that now rests in my car. Why would I do such a thing? Well I have a few reasons at hand. Firstly, there is a certain serendipitous quality to choosing your own route. Whether it’s broadening your knowledge about your beyond local landscape, discovering some new shop or restaurant or park, or simply finding a road with an amazing view or beautiful scenery, there is something to be said for making your own new experiences everyday. GPS systems in my experience tend to take either the most direct route or the downright simplest – neither tends to involve the Road Not Taken. Secondly, this point is reinforced when street directories show nearby landmarks very well. Some GPS systems also adopt this method, but I would argue in a way that isn’t particular accessible or inviting.

Thirdly, and perhaps most interestingly, I would hazard a hypothesis that using a street directory would be beneficial for my brain. London cab drivers possess a larger than average hippocampus that is useful for a plethora of everyday tasks including long term memory. While no direct evidence exists, surely using your wits and not the GPS system would be an improvement to your hippocampus? While I think Heidegger was wrong about most things, he did raise a worthy cautionary note about not letting technology get the better of us, and we should take this into consideration whenever we implement new advances that take away stuff that our brains use to do.


~ by freeze43 on June 8, 2010.

2 Responses to “Why I will try and get back into a street directory”

  1. Out of curiosity, what made you get (or use) the GPS in the first place? Does that reason still stand?

    • Well my parents have one that they don’t use very often, so I’ve used it a couple of times here and there. I’m not saying they don’t have their place- if you are in a pinch and need to get somewhere directly and quickly then I cannot reccommend them highly enough.

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