The Everyday Information Experience of Street-Level Wayfinding: A Critical Look


In the following paper I look at the information practice of wayfinding - the means by which people orient in and navigate through spaces. In contemporary information conditions of networked mobility, wayfinding is often associated with ‘asking’ Google Maps to locate where something is and how to get there. Google Maps is the most popular application for mobile devices with over 1 billion people putting it to work every month. Despite this frequency, there is little information available on how Google Maps is used. As technology writer Andrew J. Hawkins proclaims (2017), “we just need the directions, the right subway route, or the name of that good sushi place.” What is happening in these moments when one needs directions? And more specifically, to paraphrase Sarah Sharma (2012), whose routes become reified by Google Maps? I argue that the imaginary of the Google Maps ‘user’ is more than simply an archetype but an orientation within a spatialization of information that are made evident in acts of everyday wayfinding. The paper’s focus is to reflect on the intersections and the divergences between the Google Maps rhetoric and the types of street-level observed during the research.

Sep 18, 2020 14:00 ET — 14:30 ET
Rebecca Noone
Rebecca Noone
Faculty of Information, University of Toronto