Accepted paper:

"Please make a legal U-turn". Construction works along navigation routes


Annelie Pentenrieder (University of Paderborn)

Paper short abstract:

GPS navigation routes are influential infrastructures that car drivers access via their SatNav devices. Based on my ethnographic fieldwork I follow the question, which logics are inscribed in these routes and how spaces are structured by computable quantities for this human/algorithmic routing.

Paper long abstract:

GPS navigation routes - fixed between an A and a B - are influential infrastructures though hidden behind windshields. On today's streets drivers individually construct and access these routes singularly for each journey via their SatNav devices. The drivers' navigational practices make the route visible by referring to the spatial contours of these digital infrastructures, which act both empowering and disciplining on their in situ decision-making along their paths. Navigating turns into a human-machine-interaction combining human skills of wayfinding with cascades of processes and calculations. By this, a heterogeneous set of actors meets along the route:

Programmers implement mathematical route finding strategies building upon the long-held standard of the "A star-algorithm". "Error tickets" are tranferred between automotive, software and map providing companies to optimize and repair map information for every specific street corner. At the same time drivers deliberate, whether the provided route from their device is reliable or not.

My paper presents negotiations from my ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with truckers, taxi drivers, messengers and software engineers. Based on empiric vignettes I reflect on new alliances that are created along this algorithmic infrastructure. I discuss the question which and who's logics are inscribed in these routes and how are spaces structured by computable quantities for this human/algorithmic routing.

panel B08
From A to B: orders and disorders of routing and navigation