Smartphones are very good at getting you from Point A to Point B in the most direct, efficient means possible. Navigation apps abound for this purpose.
But most are geared to those traveling by car. The needs of pedestrians are after-thoughts, if they are thought of at all. And recommended walking routes – on Google Maps, for example – generally follow car routes, albeit quieter streets where possible. Trails and paths are not a part of the navigation database and are are usually ignored.
The most significant downfall of these apps as pedestrian ‘navigational’ tools is that they favour efficiency over exploration. Yet, the biggest benefit of walking is the ability to wander at will. Walkers can go where they want: take shortcuts through fields, change direction on a dime, follow eyes and noses. Look up and down. Stop. Anywhere.
In short, walkers have the luxury of getting lost. But that can be a hard concept to grasp in a car-culture governed by straight-line navigation between points. The value society places on wandering aimlessly is very low. We compare walk vs. car travel times when we ought to be thinking in terms of discovery and exploration.
Enter a set of smartphone navigation apps designed to get the walker lost. (more…)