[FoRK] Paper vs Digital maps -- tip of an iceberg?

Dave Long dave.long at bluewin.ch
Mon May 31 04:22:22 PDT 2010

Strictly speaking, this isn't paper vs digital, but rather a contrast  
between overview navigation (which could easily be digital, modulo  
form factor) and step-by-step navigation (which could easily be  
paper, e.g. index cards).

I would not be surprised if the researcher-assisted subjects had the  
best results simply because people tend to choose relevant waypoints,  
independent of delivery medium.


Cardinal rules for backpacking navigation (which I have found equally  
useful in project management):
	1. know where you want to go
		the best maps, paper or digital, are generally useless if
		one has confused St. Maurice, CH with St. Moritz, CH.
	2. know where you think you should be
		ded. reckoning* always works better when one has an
		idea of how quickly one makes progress.
	3. know where you really are
	4. at least, never leave your watershed.  if extremely uncertain,  
move downstream.
		when in doubt, bound and/or reduce uncertainty.

* hmmm... this could be an answer for the question of consciousness.   
There are certainly areas of human endeavor, such as swordplay, where  
consciousness is positively a hindrance.  I mentioned recent results  
from reaction-time studies to a former olympic fencer, and he pointed  
out that, more importantly than the time difference, if one  
consciously decides upon an attack, rather than reacting implicitly  
to the signals the opponent's posture provides, one then  
unconsciously provides signals for the opponent's use; hence the  
importance of mushin in the japanese traditions.

When, then, is it useful to carry around an internal model of the  
world?  Kalman filters suggest that navigation is such a domain, and  
the key difference seems to be the noisiness of the observations.  At  
any given point one must find a balance between the deduced state of  
the model and the observed inputs, and combining both yields better  
results than either alone.  The sword has historically often been the  
last argument of politicians, but the first arguments are generally  
made with the pen or the voice, and as a species that lives in herds  
of greater than 30-100 individuals, we may very well have had need of  
mechanisms to cope with unclear inputs and uncertain states.

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