Indoor (and in-brain) GPS

Dead Pixel in Google Earth

‘Dead Pixel in Google Earth,’ public art installation by Helmut Smits

Most of us are now used to our electronic devices telling us where we are, where we’re going, and what turns to make along the way. So, it stands to reason that we’d look to those same devices in more and more circumstances. An obvious geographic extension of GPS and ‘turn by turn’ directions is to the indoor world of large and complex buildings. Enter indoor GPS, a bundle of software and services that help you find your way not only from one address to another, but from one room to another once you’re inside.

Google Maps has included the capacity for indoor navigation since late last year (at least on Android phones), and this past summer unveiled internal navigation of 20 U.S. museums. Now other companies are making the technology available to a wider array of devices and businesses and venues. You can expect cultural consumers to expect this service in your venue soon…one more thing to do, sorry.

In an unconnected but metaphorically related advance, the new software service Qloo is seeking to help us all navigate our cultural choices — across music, video, books, bars, restaurants, and other forms of culture. Unlike media-specific systems like Netflix for films or Spotify for music, Qloo works across platforms to inform your entire aesthetic life. And, of course, like Yelp and other social discovery systems, Qloo will increasingly connect what you might like to where you are standing, so you can find interesting opportunities that match your cultural profile wherever you are.

The new services (and similar services yet to come) will increase your opportunities to know where you are, while potentially decreasing your ability to actually ”be” where you are — present, alert, aware, open, exploring.

But, of course, each of us can choose whether and when to use these services, and choose not to. And many of us will continue to wander from time to time without guidance or recommendation or or even direction, to discover the unintended and unexpected.

As J.R.R. Tolkein suggested: ”Not all those who wander are lost.”

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