Many years ago, before I had a GPS-enabled smartphone with maps, we went on a roadtrip along the coast of Maine, stopping at nearly a dozen lighthouses. When I look back, I myself am surprised that I was able to pull that off without clutching my phone the whole way. But it was a memorable roadtrip. We saw all the lighthouses we wanted to see, and got a glorious experience of the Maine coast.
How did I navigate? In the days (weeks?) before the trip, I drew maps on paper of our entire route, with all the places we wanted to see. I used Google Maps as the source. It was probably tens of pages of hand-drawn maps. It was tedious, but it did have advantages:
- I omitted unnecessary details. Just the streets I was going to be on.
- I highlighted relevant details: landmarks, distances.
- The canvas was large: letter paper.
- Preparing the maps and planning the trip was fun.
I wish I had saved that paper, because it would be a memento as evocative as the pictures from that trip.
(In 2001, LineDrive tried to address some of these issues by automatically generating driving directions in a style similar to hand-drawn maps.)
I tell you this story not to reminisce about my travels (well, maybe a little bit) but to point out that analog artifacts still have affordances that give them advantages over digital devices. Even today, for complex multi-hop trips I prefer to hand-draw maps on paper.
I want my digital interfaces to be more organic and analog, and my analog experiences to make it into my digital corpus effortlessly.