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"You have reached your destination!"? Position, positioning and superpositioning of space through car navigation systems

Author(s): T. Thielmann

Journal: Social Geography Discussions
ISSN 1816-1499

Volume: 2;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 27;
Date: 2006;
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Recent cultural theory has paid increasing attention to the category of space. What has received less attention, however, are ideas of navigation through space. From a media scientific viewpoint, maps as a representation of space have played a central role since the very early stages of the creation of spatial information systems. The relevance of maps has also been revitalised in recent years through new computer visualizations and dynamizations of cartographic imagery which has led to the establishment of "mobile cartography" as a novel topic for research. This paper argues that future developments resulting from convergence in geography, media and communication technologies can be inferred based on the increasing phenomenon of car navigation systems. But this new subject matter for social geographic research may itself become superseded, because future GPS-based localization will operate with greatly reduced symbolic sign systems. The newest mobile positioning applications no longer direct the car driver through traffic by simply using arrows, but represent the environment true to reality. On the monitor of these navigation systems, based on "augmented reality", the user sees the world and the road ahead from the same point of view as it is seen from the driver's seat. The "conversion" of abstract maps by the driver is no longer applicable. In addition, "augmented reality" in combination with a head-up display can ensure that drivers are looking straight at their route, displayed directly onto the windshield. The constitutional moment of this medium is the constant oscillation between environmental space and two-dimensional projection space. The new generation of navigation systems therefore result in concrete manifestation of what Edward Soja (1999) describes as the rise of the perspective of a third space. The driver himself is in the first space and through the windscreen sees a first space that can be experienced physically. Via the head-up display, a second space is simultaneously projected before his eyes as a mental concept of space. These spaces, when overlaid and integrated into each other, represent something like a "both/and" instead of an "either/or" through this hybridity, mobility and simultaneity. Such a complex understanding of space opens up new spaces.
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