We bought a map in a new city, almost overwhelmed by the excitement to explore the unknown. Got lost, asked for direction and made new friends, after time, we started to recognize the streets, be able to pronounce their names, know where the best stores are, and so on… Unfolding the map, where the marks of routes we’ve been to cross one another, is like unfolding our old and new memories.
But what if one day, we can know the routes in a unknown city without speaking to people? What if we decide to let someone else “stores” the memories of our exploration? We can see the destination without even stepping out of the apartment, read people’s comments and ratings of a local stores without visiting the on site. We start to walk with our heads down, instead of looking at what’s around us. The culture of traveling and exploring subtly changed as technologies such as Google Map and GPS took over our natural sense of direction, desire of self-navigation and the courage for unexpected exploration. Therefore, corresponding to the concept of “Slow Media” (see the separate article “What is Slow Media” ), “Slow Map Challenge” is a self-motivated project to challenge the use of digital maps in our daily life.
“Slow Map Challenge – Can We Live without Digital Maps?”
last update: May 18th, 2015
- Questions and Statement – Can we live without digital maps? How deeply have digital maps already influenced our traveling culture and decision-making? I argue that retrieving the use of paper maps would enable us to appreciate the relationship between landscapes, cities, people, and memories more and create a closer connection between the observers (travelers) and the cities. (For definition and more details of “digital maps” see separate article “The History of Digital Maps” )
- Rationale – Explore cities without the use of digital maps such as the GPS and the Google Map. Familiarize yourself with street names, addresses, while using paper maps and interacting with the local.
- Duration, City of Choice, and Transportation –
- May- June, 2015: Taipei City, Taiwan. Transportation includes: Taipei Metro System, local bus system, family-owned car (see “Ni Hao (Hello), Taipei City! (For May & June SMC)” for details)
- July-August, 2015: Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Transportation includes: TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) bus, subway, and streetcars
- Methods –
- Avoid digital maps, especially those involve automatic navigation (ex. Google Map/Earth, GPS), as well as any site locator apps (ex. Foursquare), site rating systems and websites (ex. Yelp), any public transit mobile apps that provide services like bus locators or route planning.
- Conduct exploration with two methods: a) random exploration without set destination – explorers should try to figure out the correct address and nearby neighborhood with the help of paper maps in hand. b) exploration with addresses informed beforehand – explorers should try to find a place with only the address information with the help of paper maps in hand.
- Mark down any routes you’ve traveled on a paper map. Take notes of what you saw and discovered during the travel and in the nearby neighborhood.
- (Optional) Do additional research on the neighborhood’s stories/history if you are interested.
- Do not hesitate to ask for directions and interact with the local!
- Keep a journal of what you realize when traveling without using digital maps. How does it change your habits? Any challenges faced?
- Expected Challenges and Limitations –
- Digital maps might still be involved when we interact with people (ex. Refering to the Google Map while giving directions)
- Hard to connect destination address with public transit routes (experience and time required)
- The process might be time-consuming with possibility of false information.