Saturday, April 17, 2010

Using GPS Technology To Get Kids Outside

One of the main things that parents of today notice about their children’s lives and that of their own when they were young is the amount of time spent outside each day. Before the internet and technology as so present in our lives many kids and even families spent more time outside playing and being together. Kids today spend a considerable more amount of time inside playing video games and browsing on the internet. Electronic gadgets are fascinating and fun but this lack of exercise is taking its toll on our youth.

But there is a way you can use those electronic gadgets to get the kids outside and spend some quality time together as a family. GPS technology is good not only for getting directions in your car of even as a child locator device but it can be the center of a fun game as well. Most everyone has at least heard of geocaching but few have actually gave this fun pastime with a GPS a try.
In short geocaching is the use of a GPS enabled device to find a stash located somewhere in your area. There are many clubs, organizations, and individuals who create caches and post their locations on the web for others to find. These caches are most often a can with a few trinkets inside like key chains and those who find the cache is free to take something from the can but they need to add something else back in.

These caches are sometimes very easy to find while others are hidden at their location to add a little extra challenge to finding them. Those looking for them use a GPS to get within the last ten feet or so then have to finish searching for the cache on their own. This modern day treasure hunt is a big hit with kids since it is a fun adventure with a prize at the end.

Many are surprised to find out just how many caches are in their area already as well as places they visit and vacation. Of course you do not have to search for these existing caches there is no reason why a family cannot go out and place a few of their own at a park or wilderness area to find on camping trips and more. Kids have just as much fun hiding the treasure as they do finding it with their GPS unit.

Parents will find that this modern day treasure hunt with a electronic personal tracking device is a big hit with the kids that will get them outside more and more. With school almost out for the summer finding ways to get them outside and off the computer or away from the television is important for their overall health and will make for a tighter family when these activities are done together.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Earth Sandwiches: Art of the Future?

“If the Earth were a sandwich, we’d get along so well…” –Ze Frank

In May 2006, performance artist, essayist, composer, dancer, and comedian, Ze Frank, challenged the viewers of his video blog, “The Show” to make an Earth Sandwich. An Earth Sandwich is made by:

1. Finding two places on the Earth directly opposite from one another. This is harder than it may sound since the majority of North America is directly opposite from the Indian Ocean. New Zealanders and Europeans can make quite a few sandwiches together. As can Northeastern Thais and Peruvians. People are Shanghai, China can make sandwiches with people in Concordia, Argentina.

2. Find someone in the country opposite from you and convince them to make an Earth Sandwich with you.

3. Place a piece of bread on the ground.

4. Have the other person place a piece of bread on the ground directly opposite you.

And there you have it! A sandwich with the entire Earth in the middle!

When the first Earth Sandwich was made between a team in Spain and a wacky guy in New Zealand, they video tapped the process and the placement of the bread and posted their videos online. And thus, art was made. Or was it? Is using GPS technology to determine a place directly opposite from you on the Earth and then simply placing a piece of bread on really “art”?

“Art” can be defined as “the creation of works of beauty or other special significance.” While it is certainly debatable whether or not an Earth Sandwich is “beautiful” or not, it certainly is significant in that it brings people on opposite sides of the Earth together to complete a task. It requires planning and cooperation. If only the two people, (or teams) involved see the Earth Sandwich, can it then be called “art”? Or does it need to be documented somehow are shared? Is the “art” made from the mere act of creating the work or does the work need to be viewed by people other than the “artists” in order to qualify as “art”?

Regardless, Earth Sandwiches and other GPS activities such as Geocaching, Earthcaching, Geodashing, Geofencing, Geotagging, GPS drawing, OpenStreetMap content, and Waymarking are changing the world we live in whether we like it or not. These GPS activities allow people from all over the world to not only communicate with one another, (which they’ve been doing via the internet with chat programs, social networking sites and IMs for decades), but to actually engage in activities “together” while physically “apart.” The creation of art of other GPS artifacts is only the beginning.

GPS technology has allowed for incredible advancements. Today, a GPS child locator can help parents and Police locate missing children quickly and accurately. These GPS Amber Alert devices have emergency buttons and can even allow parents and the authorities to “listen in” on their children, wherever they may be. Now that’s progress.