‘At the next junction, turn left’: attitudes towards Sat Nav use

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While there is established academic literature on cartography and Geographical Information Systems (GIS), to date there has been scant investigation of attitudes towards the use of Satellite Navigation (Sat Nav) as a technology of navigation and the issues that may arise from its use. However, the impacts of Sat Nav tools on cartographic literacy, spatial awareness and graphicacy should be matters of interest and concern to geographers. This paper is an initial investigation of people's attitudes towards, and experiences of, Sat Nav. Based on a survey of undergraduate geography students (n = 46), navigational capacities and technological aspects of Sat Nav are regarded positively, whereas negative attitudes are associated with technological, safety and financial attributes of Sat Nav use. Distinctions were made between traditional navigational technologies such as paper‐based maps and Sat Nav. Crucially, the digital spatial representations of Sat Nav were not perceived as maps but as a distinctive navigational tool. Students also expressed concerns about the potential implications of reduced use of other navigational tools on their cartographic literacy and spatial awareness. We demonstrate that Sat Nav use is intrinsically changing people's wayfinding behaviour, processes and practices of navigation, and their understanding of what ‘maps’ are and do. Fundamentally, Sat Nav is not viewed or used in the same way as more traditional technologies of navigation. We assert that geographers should engage more actively with current interdisciplinary dialogues on wayfinding navigational technologies and spatial and cartographic literacy.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01086.x

Affiliations: Department of Geography, Liverpool Hope University, Hope Park, Liverpool, L16 9JD.

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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