New Cartographies and Virtual Environments with GPS


Session Title:

  • Digital Geography

Presentation Title:

  • New Cartographies and Virtual Environments with GPS



  • GPS satellite-based techniques for positioning ourselves on the face of the earth have become increasingly more exacting.We now operate within a complex digital infrastructure comprised of real-time computer communications and surveillance systems.The planet is now utterly mapped out within an enveloping and constantly moving invisible grid that provides an address, a pixel, which articulates every place on earth. Determining location has shifted from mechanical to digital means, and as such, visual sites or physical markers are no longer required as positional references. Our sense of location is being challenged and redefined yet again by the invisible structures of streams of pure information. Geography and cartography have been exhausted and superseded by technologies of surveillance. Globe-encompassing satellite constructions like the Global Positioning System present us with hyper-extreme articulation of space, time, and location. Over two decades ago the United States Department of Defense developed the Global Positioning System at the cost of ten billion dollars. Designed for military missile deployment, the US government oversees, controls, and allocates military and commercial applications of its communications signals. Orbiting 20,000 km above the earth, this constellation of twenty-four interlocked Naystar satellites relays a continuous, multi-source string of radio signals to radio receivers on earth that permit the pinpoint determination of location in four dimensions. Long-range satellite technologies and the introduction of GPS challenges traditional definitions of navigation, specifically with regard to location, timing, and tracking. Like a huge invisible interactive map of networked information that blankets the entire globe, the Naystar satellites create a topographic envelope that choreographs points, lines, and planes in real-time. Now the representation of topography is defined by a moving, shifting ground visualized with numerical data rather than image information.Cartography has evolved from a two-dimensional system of representation of the visible for documenting the physical landscape to a four-dimensional invisible feedback system for surveilling an exhausted physical topography. The work presented uses GPS to locate and expose the intersections of regional spaces in Banff, Canada and to re-visualize place in an interpretative electronic environment. Global Positioning #4 explores the reconstruction of cartographies as seen through new technologies. Longitude, latitude, altitude, and time data was input to a Silicon Graphics workstation and Softimage software was used to reconstruct the physical path into a virtual animated path.