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Google GPS navigation


For two days we get caught out by and even lost on the freeways around San Diego – our car hire company did not provide Sat Nav and there are no road maps to speak of – I bought two. They lacked detail and didn’t even show Ocean Beach where we were staying. Resistance to localising our Sim cards and we try the new Google Maps GPS system. A wonder. We nickname the British voice ‘Simon’ as in ‘Simon Says …’ Unlike the human navigator or back-seat driver he is extraordinarly patient if you insist on going the wrong way. Overnight we develop a dependency which ensures that more than one phone is charged, a battery-block is charged too and we even buy a bluetooth linked portable speaker.

Our week in Sausalito becomes an adventure as we drive ‘like natives’ from one end of the county to the other … and beyond. Farfrom being slaves to the technology it frees us.

We marvel at the precision navigation – for the most part. We are ‘rescued’ several times from what I would call Freeway Purgatory – finding no way off the freeway and losing any sense of direction. We trust it rather than my gut to take us everywhere. So far the only foible has been the choice of exit from Golden Gate North to Sausalito as ‘Simon’s’ choice is to drop down the steepest most windy road to our accommodation rather than taking the longer, and more appropriate main road in.

It is a Beta version. Whilst a sense of fun has me dreaming up all kinds of variations to the character and tone of the voice, and its granularity my only additional requirement is for the occassional prompt during a long stretch to say we are doing OK.

Of course, losing the signal or a dead phone is now a bind. So far I will take screen grabs and yesterday with the phone about to die I took photos of the route and directions which my daughter then read out as we set off – necessary as even getting from one side of a freeway to the other may require what feels like an odd choice of route, not over or under, but along and back.

Walking a trail in Muir Woods, when we had a signal, I could, within reason keep on track. Not accurate enough to allow me to close my eyes, but one day could this support the blind? Could we turn ‘Simon’ into an educator as well as a guide? Do we want some or any journey ‘annotated?’

I LOVE the way the brain will throw you a googlie. It’s why we’re human.

And then there’s this – 12 grabs of an Activity System looking like Toblerone.

One per month, one per hour.

This is the point. The thing is

a) a grab in time

b) unstable

c) a construct or model (as well as a theory).

A theory because it can be re-applied (for now).

Fig.1. Its image explains itself.

Engestrom and others go to great lengths to remind us that the model/theory of an Activity System is a snap shot in time – that even as we look at it things are moving on, that the relationships don’t simply change as a result of the interactions with each other – but because the whole thing shifts.

OK. Take a chocolate triangle of activity Theory and visualise it in sequence. Better still, drop what you are doing and go and buy some.

Now take a piece and eat it.

The logic remains equally sound when I suggest that by consuming a moment of the Activity System in its last iteration you are enacting what the Internet has done and is doing.

This is what the connectivity of the Web does – the degree and scale of connections is overpowering and consuming.

One step more.

That triangle of chocolate, nougat, almonds and honey that I see as a multi-sensory expression of an Activity System may be digested in the stomach, but its ingredients hit you in the head.

It’s a brain thing.

Which explains my interest in neuroscience.

It happens. It should be visible. It can be measured.

Just reading this a million Lego Characters are kicking a few more million molecular bricks along a dendrite in part because they must, then again just to see what happens (yes, I have just read ‘Neuroscience for Dummies’). So some stick in odd places. Some will hit the mark (whatever that is) while another will remind you of the very moment you first nibbled on Toblerone.

I LOVE the way the brain will throw you a googlie. (as a fraction of the planet know cricket other metaphors are required. I never even played the game as I was deemed rubbish – actually, though no one spotted it in five years of prep school, I needed glasses).

On the one hand, my interest is to take a knife to all of this, chop it off and put it in the compost bin so that I am left with something that is ‘tickable’, on the other hand I want to indulge the adventure of the composting process.


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