My second session with Nikki was a hands-on session focusing on GPS technology. It’s something I’ve wanted to delve into deeper, as I’d like to try it out with my storymaps. I’m interested in sharing journeys, and leading people on trails where key elements of the story are revealed as they go along.

We started the session with a brief Arduino refresher, before wiring up a GPS module to it. Next we had to wait for the module to pick up a satellite (well, 3 satellites). It was mid-afternoon in Birmingham City Centre, and the satellites were taking their time to connect, so we moved our GPS module over to the window so it could see some sky. After a few minutes, we got a satellite. Then another two. So with three satellites, our GPS module started transmitting data.

Time and date, latitude, longitude, speed, distance between two places, number of satellites, hdop (horizontal dilution of precision), altitude, how far away a place was, and which direction to go to get there. Usually when I look at pages full of text/numbers, my brain just says “nope”, but singling out one line made it easier, and going through it section by section was a bit like dissecting a poem; once you know what each part means, it gives you a greater understanding of the thing as a whole.

We used a data-logger Nikki had used in another project, which was set up to give distances from London, so we changed the coordinates so it would tell us the distance and direction to the park near my house. That instantly made it more personal. This little GPS module was chatting to satellites and then telling me how to find my way home.

Now I have a little more understanding of GPS technology and how it works, I need to think about how I’d like to use it. I’m wary about letting the tech lead the work. I could go ahead and try building a physical thing that would utilise the tech, something to be carried that would guide people somewhere, and I do think it’s something I will look into at some point in the future. But there’s only a matter of weeks left of the Fellowship, and I’m cautious of squandering time. I’ve been exposed to so many new technologies and art-forms during this Fellowship, and each new thing seems to spark a zillion ideas of things I can try, make, or do. I could get lost in it. So I have to remind myself what I initially wanted to get out of the Fellowship:

“To learn how to use mapping technologies to create layers over cities and towns, for people to experience in different ways. Like a path through a town that tells a story, using fictional characters but real places, or a journey that triggers new lines of poetry when you reach a certain point on the map”

and then decide if that’s still relevant.