Week 6: The Past and Dangers of GPS

This week, my blog focuses on what I felt describe the concept of identity. One artist that illustrate this idea of identity is Teri Rueb. Teri Rueb is an artist who explores  the work of digital, architectural, and traditional media and modes of production ( Rueb, Teri Rueb). Rueb devoted most of her time in creating sculptures and site-specific installations that use the unique capabilities of emerging technologies to enhance the expressive power of her work (Wilson 286).

In Trace, which was created and produced in the summer of 1997, Rueb collaborated with The Baniff Centre for the Arts to raise questions about identity in today’s society. Produced on hiking trails near the Burgess State fossil beds in Yoho National Park in British Columbia, Trace is a memorial environmental sound installation that utilizes global positioning system (GPS) to transform the trails into a landscape of sound recordings that commemorate personal loss, death, and transformation. To explore these themes of identity that Rueb was attempting to emphasize, Rueb compiled a database of digital sound recordings that people submitted to the collection and chose a location on the trial to be heard by visitors. Visitors visiting the trails are given a knapsack that contains a GPS and a laptop. As hikers reach certain longitude and latitude on the trail, the GPS detects the location and begins playing the recordings. By integrating GPS and submitted recordings onto hiking trails, Trace raises the questions and concerns of cultural void in individuals’ emotional and spiritual connections due to the influence of Western technology, most notably the global positioning system.

When I examine Trace, the artwork not only brought awareness about “cultural void” but also the dangers of technological advances. The GPS that Rueb used in her piece is a tool that allow individuals to explore and navigate through space and time. In Trace, Rueb utilizes the GPS as a pinpoint for the sound recordings because installation of hardware components along the trails would have been ecologically invasive (Wilson 286). However, to me, the GPS also acts as a locator that pinpoints the location of an individual. As GPS becomes more integrated into our lives, these individuals become more vulnerable to its abuse and potential danger. One potential threat to society is the invasion of privacy. Although a GPS gives accurate information on a location, the user of the GPS can also be located. Because a GPS sendssignals to a satellite that determines both the end point and the starting point of a trip, the starting point would be the user of the GPS. With such an innovation, the government may exploit the use of the GPS and use it to fight cyber terrorism. While the government may deny the use of a GPS to fight terrorism or as a mean to track certain individuals, there is no guarantee that the government will not.


Here is a picture of the location of Trace. In various locations, sound recordings will be played for the hikers to appreciate the past. Below is a video of Trace and what the project was like.


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