'Outsmarting Traffic, Together': Driving as Social Navigation

Sam Hind, Alex Gekker


Social navigation; ludic interaction; GPS; casual politicking; digital mapping technologies; automobiles
Image of Waze application in vehicle by Flickr user Wondermonkey2k.

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The automotive world is evolving. Ten years ago Nigel Thrift (2004: 41) made the claim that the experience of driving was slipping into our 'technological unconscious'. Only recently the New York Times suggested that with the rise of automated driving, standalone navigation tools as we know them would cease to exist, instead being 'fully absorbed into the machine' (Fisher, 2013). But in order to bridge the gap between past and future driving worlds, another technological evolution is emerging. This short, critical piece charts the rise of what has been called 'social navigation' in the industry; the development of digital mapping platforms designed to foster automotive sociality. It makes two provisional points. Firstly, that 'ludic' conceptualisations can shed light on the ongoing reconfiguration of drivers, vehicles, roads and technological aids such as touch-screen satellite navigation platforms. And secondly, that as a result of this, there is a coming-into-being of a new kind of driving politics; a 'casual politicking' centred on an engagement with digital interfaces. We explicate both by turning our attention towards Waze; a social navigation application that encourages users to interact with various driving dynamics. 



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