The Concept of Whereabouts

It was also about this time where I reflected on my prior experiences working with Aboriginal communities where on many many occasions we had discussed the importance of country, that fundamental point of where we stand on the ground, that core roundedness that comes of a cultural connection, that already knows where it exists. I recall speaking with and listening to a number of Aboriginal community contacts we interacted with through our Streamfolio company who stated that the context of where you were is as fundamental not only to what you are engaging with but also who you know and that they know related.  

The example given was that if “ you white people would only look up from your electronic maps and actually look out of the window of the car you might know where you actually are.” 

This seemed particularly salient when I myself had after a very short period of time found myself depending on Google maps to get around Sydney when in the past I had a reasonable rough idea where a location was and would arrive to it with only a faint anxiety of not being able to find where I was actually meant to be. The onset of digital maps including Google Maps for mobile devices also presented a mobile wearer with the first of the many paradoxes underpinning the research I was to conduct, that of accepting the ’this application requires knowledge of your location. Do you give permission for your whereabouts to be provided to your service provider?" 

The answer in order to use the application was clearly ‘yes’ because selecting ’no’ means that the Google Maps application would not work. It depends on the user of the device "giving away” the device connection location, there own whereabouts, as a trade off in order for the device to be of use for that purpose.  Likewise, if the setting for a location enabled head worn camera was set to ‘record GPS coordinates’ it initially in early models required a device reset using the computer onboard software which after purchase was rarely ever reassessed. That meant that these location enabled head worn cameras were always recording the geolocation by default.

It was released from the manufacturer as set to always on and until such time as it was set to ‘not record GPS location’ the feature just recorded and sent the data sets to the manufacturer.

We had become aware that these technologies became progressively (or for others regressively) feature rich, provided an accuracy sometimes not invited, also a dependency by design causes loss of instinct to locate one’s self. So, the very nature of nature (pardon the pun) had been transcended by an electronic “telling” of where one is located as opposed to orienting one’s self in a location by visual whereabouts. Spinning the map to correspond with the coordinates of a location and a short finger trace from location to destination was now suffice to begin the journey and end our own ability to travel unaided. 

Also suffice to say, the journey would invariably require the traveller depending on a physical map to stop occasionally and again reorient themselves both topographically, geophysically and by estimation as to where they were again pointing to a point on a map. 

Location as fundamental to an electronic device that not only provides an exact second by second geolocation on a correctly oriented map interface also provides messages of estimated arrival, topographical three dimensional feature overlays of data as the traveller progresses on their route and one further noteworthy dependency enhancing attribute. 

The traveller using Google Maps no longer needs to orient themselves with where they are going as the ‘directions’ and live map visual feature provides - they are depending on being told where to go and in the electronic history of the device and networked system as to where they have been. Does this then reduces the ability of a human to navigate through terrain and find a location because the system itself chooses for a user what and where the “best route” will be? Do the directions better facilitate that users chances of using toll payment gateways or stopping at shopping facilities as a result of where they have been navigated though or too? 

I recall conversing with Cecil See from Dubbo, NSW that with respect to audio recording (never mind video recording) that if the location enabled feature was a selective feature rather than a prescribed feature then the tool would be useful provided that option to opt off was available. If on the other hand the device enabled with location and other features such as biometric scanning or facial recognition was an integrated feature but not removable then the device itself had the potential to cause great cultural damage to those who objected to it’s presence and use in a variety of settings. The location enabled device meant then that an individual carrying a device was then not to be trusted as “business” could not be conducted whilst an individual held or wore this device in their presence. 

Cecil stated to me which I noted on September 1st  2009 that:

“…being networked means you have become a walking transmitter, a collector, a digital anthropologist not unlike those anthros from centuries, decades before”. 

In that context I understood from his assertions that humans as “technologists” promising insight into a culture based on a trust tradeoff that gave away location, date, time and any number of other data ultimately works against the very community it promises to liberate. An example of this is that GIS and the nature of language that is acquired or lost according to where we are by geolocation ie. Nyungar and the role of technology in that circumstance.