Let me begin by stating I love technology. I love its boundless opportunities for creating a better, more efficient tomorrow. I love how quickly and thoroughly I can connect with old friends, friends across the globe, or my co-worker in the office down the hall. Some argue as technology advances, our ancestral traits face extinction.
In one of the chapters of The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr, he takes our growing dependency on digital devices, such as the GPS, and compares it alongside the health of our brain's hippocampus (if you don't know what that is, shame on you). In this particular chapter we calls us out on our use of GPS devices, pointing out our desire to believe "computer maps as interactive, high-tech versions of papers." He says this a mistaken assumption. "Map reading," Carr shares with us, "strengthens our sense of place and hones our navigational skills- in ways that can make it easier for us to get around even when we don't have a map in hand."
"Paper maps don't just shepard us from one place to the next; they teach how to think about space."
Let's entertain this for a minute. Remember the first time you went to a new friend's house? Remember how you got there- did you use a GPS, print out step-by-step directions, or did you friend tell you how to get there? Which option do you think helped you get there more easily the next time?
Carr explains "getting to know a place takes effort, but it ends in fulfillment and in knowledge." It feels good to get ourselves unstuck, un-lost, and on our way again using our skills and critical thinking. While I believe in Carr's ideology about the difference between world and screen, I also believe there is a time and a place for both. When I venture out into unknown territory, I use a digital device to get me there. However, once I've found my destination safely, I take 10-15 minutes to drive and/or walk around the neighborhood. This helps me get to know the new place on a personal level, while also not spending 20 minutes in a truck stop asking if the cashier could just repeat that last part one more time...
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