Maps for Hospitals is always evolving to help meet our customer’s mapping needs. This webpage, Current Projects/News, will offer ideas on using maps effectively so the end user will have a more satisfying and successful visit. We will also provide information on current projects and ventures.
There was a recent editorial in the local paper, The Daily Times, that discusses the use of paper versus digital maps. Printed maps are an invaluable tool in the hospital environment. The maps clearly display the public destinations and how to get there. A patient or visitor may be led to a destination but then it is up to them to find their way back to their car or pick up location. Having a map that they can study will help them understand the flow and layout of the campus. Printed maps can also contain additional hospital information, such as cafeteria hours, visiting hours, parking information, etc.
We live in a digital age but existing tools such as paper maps go a long way in helping someone navigate an area. Enjoy the editorial.
Why paper maps still matter in the digital device age
With the proliferation of smartphones, it’s easy to assume that the era of the paper map is over. That attitude, that digital is better than print, is what I call “technochauvinism.” In my book, “Artificial Unintelligence:How Computers Misunderstand the World,” I look at how technochauvinism has been used to create an unnecessary, occasionally harmful bias for digital over print or any other kind of interface.
YOUR BRAIN ON MAPS
Cognitive researchers generally make a distinction between surface knowledge and deep knowledge. Experts have deep knowledge of a subject or a geography; amateurs
have surface knowledge. Digital interfaces are good for acquiring surface knowledge. Answering the question, “How do I get from the airport to my hotel in a new-to-me city?” is a pragmatic problem that requires only shallow information to answer.
Print maps help you acquire deep knowledge faster and more efficiently. In experiments, people who read on paper consistently demonstrate better reading comprehension than people who read the same material on a
screen. A 2013 study showed that, as a person’s geographic skill increases, so does their preference for paper maps.
Reading in print makes it easier for the brain to encode knowledge and to remember things. Sensory cues, like unfolding the complicated folds of a paper map, help create that cognitive map in the brain and help the brain to retain the knowledge.
Another factor in the paper versus digital debate is accuracy. Obviously, a good digital map is better than a bad paper map, just like a good paper map is better than a bad digital map. Fanatical attention to detail is necessary to keep digital maps up to date, as conditions in the real world change constantly. Companies like Google are constantly updating their maps, and will have to do so regularly for as long as they continue to publish. The maintenance required for digital content is substantial — a cost that technochauvinists often ignore.
In my view, it’s easier to forgive the errors in a paper map. Physical maps usually include an easily visible publication date so users can see when the map was published. (When was the last time you noticed the date-of-last-update on your
car navigation system?) When you are passively following the spoken GPS directions of a navigation system, and there is, say, an unmarked exit, it confuses the GPS system and causes chaos among the people in the car. (Especially the back-seat drivers.)
THE BEST MAP FOR THE JOB
A technochauvinist mindset assumes everything in the future will be digital. But what happens if a major company like Google stops offering its maps? What happens when
a government shutdown means that satellite data powering smartphone GPS systems isn’t transmitted? Right now, ambulances and fire trucks can keep a road atlas in the front seat in case electronic navigation fails. If society doesn’t maintain physical maps, first responders won’t be able to get to addresses when there is a fire or someone is critically ill. Interrupting a country’s GPS signals is also a realistic cyberwarfare tactic.
The U.S. Navy has resumed training new recruits in celestial navigation, a technique that dates back to ancient Greece, as a guard against when the digital grid gets hacked.
Ultimately, I don’t think it should be a competition between physical and digital. In the future, people will continue to need both kinds of maps. Instead of arguing whether paper or digital is a better map interface, people should consider what map is the right tool for the task.
MEREDITH BROUSSARD is an assistant professor of journalism at New
York University focusing on the role of artificial intelligence.