Wednesday, May 04, 2016

More Wayfinding

Update:  A friend from Bible study was on those Jarbridge roads last year.

Death By GPS.  Linked at Instapundit today.

I will go back and connect this up to my entire wayfinding series when we've done commenting here.

As I have not driven much out west, so their average distances may overawe me, but a look at the map while reading the article - of course I brought up a map while reading the article - shows that the Chretiens were not just expecting to find back roads to take them "several" miles across the desert and over mountains to get back to the Interstate, it was more like 70 miles. I can't imagine what they were thinking.

There is some newer science about navigation and orientation here, yet I think they have missed some things that have been learned before and are drawing wrong conclusions.  Also, we might appear to have an installed north-orientation on our internal maps because that's what we've been exposed to.  It isn't necessarily innate, and early mapmakers often put east on the top.


Christopher B said...

I readily admit to having no innate sense of direction. I have to focus on cues like sun position or known landmarks.

East to the top makes some sense. You can easily orient yourself and the map towards the sun position. I suppose north became more common when compasses did as well.

Christopher B said...

After reading the article I'm feeling contrarian as the headline was a bit bait and switch. GPS devices are pretty ubiquitous so it's not surprising they are now often found at the site where trips go permanently south (figuratively speaking) but that doesn't imply causation to me.

The root cause of the Chretien's tragedy appears to be the decision to verge off I84 onto ID 51 without first determining if that route lead to an acceptable destination rather than just assuming a reconnection to US 93 existed, followed by the decision to press on to the closest town rather than retrace a previously traveled path. It doesn't appear that the Chretien's were using the GPS when they turned off I84 onto ID 51 so it didn't misdirect them. If they had turned on the GPS in Penticton, entered Las Vegas (or Jackpot) as a destination, and followed it I'm fairly sure they would have arrived safely. As it was, it did the job it was asked to do in determining a route from where they were to Mountain City but the Chretiens were the ones who picked the destination. This doesn't appear to be an error in wayfinding so much as an error in planning and judgment. Could the perception that the GPS would bail them out of trouble contribute to this? Certainly but people have gotten in bad spots a similar way using maps and guides since the first time we ventured over the hill beyond next(see Party, Donner).

Some of the other instances appear to be a loss of situational awareness due to task focus, i.e. distracted driving, with following the GPS directions being the claimed distraction. You could just as easily get distracted trying to follow a map, or arguing about which turn take.