Man vs. Machine

A series of articles in the U.K. Daily Mail illustrate the importance of public and media attitudes towards GIS. According to the Daily Mail, “The AA has apologised to an angry mum who they left stranded in her broken down car on a dark isolated country road after the “disgraceful” motoring organisation told them they were not on their maps…Former social worker Trish was astonished at the response of the AA who spent 15 minutes on the phone and told her the road did not exist because it was not on their computerised mapping system.”

One of the issues faced by the GIS community is that the public doesn’t separate out problems relating to the technology or the user.An operator is only as good as the data they have at hand and the training they have received. Common sense on the part of the operator doesn’t hurt either. They also don’t differentiate between types of mapping tools and how robust or accurate each tool might be. The Daily Mail follows up with a story, like John Henry and his hammer, the ‘good old fashioned road atlas’ beats out computerized mapping. The ‘good old-fashioned’ £8 AA map-book not only beat a sophisticated £220 sat-nav system – costing nearly 28 times more and getting the driver lost down “obscure” country detours – it also knocked the socks off a computer-based route-finder costing £45. The low-tech road atlas also trounced the Government’s own free online ‘Transport Direct’ website, which was by far the worst, giving motorists incorrect directions, sending them miles out of their way and taking users twice as long to get to their destination.” It then proceeds to lists problems the public has encountered with computer mapping. The GIS community needs to take these feelings and experiences into account, because they could impact them as the technology is integrated into daily life.