Another post

by Patrick Meier at his prolific iRevolution blog took my interest today. Posted back in June 2011, ‘A List of Completely Wrong Assumptions About Technology Use in Emerging Economies’ is about the situated nature of technology. I challenge anyone to read through the comments and still argue that maps aren’t local, situated objects of knowledge. Nothing intuitive, obvious or general about them. As Meier says:

In one of the training workshops we just had, I was explaining what Walking Papers was about and how it might be useful in Liberia. So I showed the example below and continued talking. But Kate jumped in and asked participants: “What do you see in this picture? Do you see the trees, the little roads?” She pointed at the features as she described the individual shapes. This is when it dawned on me that there is absolutely nothing inherently intuitive about satellite images. Most people on this planet have not been on an airplane or a tall building. So why would a bird’s eye view of their village be anything remotely recognizable? I really kicked myself on that one. So I’ll write it again: there is nothing intuitive about satellite imagery. Nor is there anything intuitive about GPS and the existence of a latitude and longitude coordinate system.


More wrong assumptions revealed themselves during the workshpos [sic]. For example, the “+” and “-” markers on Google Map are not intuitive either nor is the concept of zooming in and out. How are you supposed to understand that pressing these buttons still shows the same map but at a different scale and not an entirely different picture instead?

Good for thinking through how situated protest mapping is in the UK – built for specific reasons, terrains and people. Plenty of the comments draw on experiences in non-Western countries, but as one of them says, there is just as much variation in knowledge within Western countries. Using digital maps on mobile devices draws on a whole new world of required actions, and who’s to think the tap, pinch and scroll of touch-sensitive phones is anything like intuitive? New technologies always require a learning process.