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Think Out Loud

Our Computers, Ourselves: Mapping

Courtesy of Bluman, Creative Commons

Back in the low tech days before the internet, before Google, when you were headed to an unknown destination, you’d pull out a big foldable map and trace your fingers over potential routes. Now that your destination can be a dot on a smartphone, getting directions to almost anywhere requires just a few seconds of typing.

But what has this reliance on digital maps done to us? John Kennedy, a neuroplastician and “brain training” coach, argues that by reading real maps and being aware of how to get places — as opposed to completely relying on digital assistance — we are building up important parts of our brains.

It’s also important to keep in mind that GPS and Google maps can still lead you astray. In the second part of our tech series, Our Computers, Ourselves, we’ll dig into how the rise of digital maps have affected our understanding and sense of place.

How have you embraced digital maps and GPS? If so, do you think your sense of direction has decreased now that you no longer need to remember how to get places?


  • John Kennedy: Neuroplastician and “brain training” coach
  • Amber Case: Director of Esri’s Research and Development Center in Portland


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