I have recently been exploring the unusual interface created by a combination of GPS technology and creating works of art. I have been fascinated by the work of Stephen Lund, a marketing consultant from Canada who spends his spare time cycling through city streets of Victoria, British Colombia, while drawing maps using his ‘Strava’ GPS tracker.
Lund either plans routes that lets him doodle a continuous line to paint a picture, or he uses an alternative method which he calls ‘connecting the dots’. Here, he pauses his tracker at selected points, and then restarts it again at another point so that these points are joined with a straight line.
“I use Google maps a lot. I zoom right in and if the roads don’t connect where I need them to connect. I look for a field I can cut across or parking lot that I can wind my way through. It’s very satisfying when I solve the problem. And I think the whole geography thing is interesting too. It’s all about working with the map”. (Stephen Lund)
Lund’s routes average about 70 kilometres of riding, the equivalent of about four hours on the bike. However, some of his more complex portraits can take up to 14 hours to complete. Lund is currently experimenting with ‘GPS doodle tours’, where he leads groups of cyclists on trips that produce a great takeaway map as a souvenir.
Others have latched onto this idea, and started to make creative use of their Smartwatches, Fit Bits and other GPS gadgets to track their locations while cycling or walking and create some art.
There is even one case where an artist proposed by spelling “Marry Me” on a map!
Here are some other examples:
The 32 mile map of the world shown above was created by American teacher and cyclist Mike Wallace.
The ‘MapMyRun’ running app recently ran a competition amongst its users to create some art using the built-in mapping feature. Here are some of the results:
GPS is commonly used now in animal tracking, and many scientists already post their data recordings publicly on sites like Movebank and zoaTrack. I recently discovered an interesting book by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti called ‘Where the Animals Go’. They have used animal tracking data to create 50 beautiful and engaging maps that reveal the wanderings of animals captured by satellites, camera traps, drones, and other tools. The book is filled with records of amazing journeys, from bees in a backyard to migrating terns and jaguars patrolling their home territories.