'Outsmarting Traffic, Together': Driving as Social Navigation


  • Sam Hind University of Warwick
  • Alex Gekker Utrecht University
  • Sam Hind University of Warwick
  • Alex Gekker Utrecht University




Social navigation, ludic interaction, GPS, casual politicking, digital mapping technologies, automobiles


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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Author Biographies

Sam Hind, University of Warwick

Sam Hind is a PhD candidate in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick, UK. He is attached to an ERC funded project entitled ‘Digital Mapping Practices as New Media Cultures’. His thesis is an investigation into the transformational role of digital mapping technologies in protest events. More broadly, he is interested in conceptualising how digital maps are enrolled into everyday life.

Alex Gekker, Utrecht University

Alex Gekker is a PhD candidate at the Utrecht University on the ERC research project Charting the Digital:Digital Mapping Practices as New Media Cultures. In this project he examines digital maps and their interfaces from perspective of casual engagement, playfulness and power, focusing on political, crisis and counter-mapping.Previously he has written about the notion of casual politicking, or the transformation of political conduct as informed by mediatization, and specifically the proliferation of games and game-like interfaces in daily lives.


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