Saturday, August 14, 2021

believe it or not, i don't want the world to revolve around me

My sweetheart Melissa thinks it's bizarre that I switch my GPS app so that "north is always up", rather than the more common "forward is always up", with the display always shifting/rotation so it corresponds well with the view in front of the car hood.

There are three reasons I do this, in decreasing levels of silliness:

1. To up my manliness! I'm sure it's an outdated belief, but one nugget that stuck with my from like Cognitive Science 101 in college is allegedly men are better than women at performing mental spatial rotations. I don't want to get into the discourse here - I don't know if it's still a well-regarded finding, but it's a concept that stuck with me, and - ridiculously - I put GPS with "north is up" in order to get myself better at that kind of rotation. And thus, become "more manly" (snicker). 

2. To better reflect my philosophy of objective, shared reality over subjective truth. When I first got a GPS that rotated the view by default, I zoomed  way out, and realized how strange it was that, even though I'm on the east coast of the USA, the Atlantic was a big area on the LEFT of the screen, the opposite of what it is on a map. Regardless of what my friends think, I actually don't like the idea of the world rotating around me... the world - and by extension reality-  is what it is regardless of where I am at, and I kind of like my GPS to reflect that.

3. To better learn the lay of the land. I can't find the article, but a while back I read how there are two classes of tools - ones, such as training wheels or a temporary crutch, that build you up and let you perform better when you don't have them, vs ones you grow to depend on and so are made more helpless with their absence. An abacus is said to be in the first class - skilled users are greatly improved in visualizing mathematical operations even when without their preferred tool handy, while calculator users are more likely to be stuck. (I like that old gag, forget my Google search history, what would really be embarrassing is a usage history kept by a calculator app.) 

In fact that was a knock against the GPS, that would inhibit actually learning the geography. My response to that as an early adopter (In 2004 I got a Garmin StreetPilot 2610, $700 from was "I got news for you pal - I was bad at navigation even BEFORE I got the GPS, I was just more stressed about it"

But still I hope to reclaim some actual learning by keeping north as up, to continually work on building up my intrinsic feel for the way streets and neighborhoods are set out and are connected, to have to do a little mental work rather than being spoon fed with the map spun around me. 

(Melissa also hatest hates that I tend to mute the app so that the voice doesn't constantly interrupt my  music - especially when reciting long traffic sign-ish route identifiers for the second or third time. But that's a different story. I do wonder though, why Google Maps insists on breaking the silence when I cross a state border? Does it think I might be up to something nefarious and might need to know?)

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