Claudio Aporta and Eric Higgs (2005) present the integration of GPS into Inuit life as an example of a greater pattern of technological change on human engagement. I was taught by George Wenzel about the introduction of new technologies into Inuit life and how it affected social and cultural practices. However, this article expands my knowledge of technology as a factor that limits our understanding of the original methods behind the devices. While the Inuit example is useful due to a more spatially and culturally isolated population, the ideas from this text can be expanded to the wider world.
This piece talks about the loss of knowledge, social engagement, and connection with the local environment. We should also ask what do we gain from making our lives easier and limiting interactions with the environment? Do we gain a greater understanding of different information? Do we gain other forms of meaningful interactions? Or is the loss irreparable?
Let’s look at the evolution of human beings; is this just a result of the process – as humans evolve they evolve out of their environment? The evolution of technology is referenced many times but I wished that this piece went in an even more philosophical direction and asked questions about human evolution as well. I think that now, 10 years after this article was written, we can assume that technology has started to merge with permanent human behavioural changes. The authors allude to this by stating; “it is not unrealistic to suppose that [GPS technology] will at some point become so integrated into a larger ecology of technologies that its presence will be hardly noticed. (748)” Yet is this simply the price of evolution? Do we ever look back on a previous period of change and even recognize the loss, or, in our further evolved state just conclude it was inevitable?
I think that in this case GIScience provides hope. I see it as a way to understand the methods behind the technology or to use technology to create new, and potentially meaningful, understandings of the world around us. As the authors concluded, finding meaning in a life full of technology might be more difficult, but it is still possible.