Paper Maps: The reason this traditional tool is still important

SAN ANTONIOEditor's Note: Adulting Hacks is a series featured exclusively on KSAT News at 9.

When is the last time you thought about a paper map?

Navigation is just one aspect of life drastically changed by technology.  Digital GPS devices have made getting from one place to the next as easy as typing an address into your phone.  KSAT recently sat down with a geography expert about why this could be a problem.

Why do paper maps matter?

Digital GPS systems may be making us less aware of our surroundings.

"A lot of studies have shown that overreliance on GPS mapping devices has essentially eroded our broader spatial awareness," said Dr. Neil Debbage, assistant professor of geography and environmental sustainability at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

At best, not having spatial awareness can make it trickier to get around.  At worst, it can lead to safety issues. Debbage points to natural disasters as an example of when this could become dangerous.

"People can't find themselves on a weather map to see if they're actually in the way of a tornado," Debbage said. "They might know the county they live in, but don't necessarily know where it is on the map."

Tips for reading a map

1. Take a look at the legend. Think of it as a road map for your map.

2. Be aware of the scale.

3. Take note of what is not being represented on the map.  Debbage says it is equally important to think about what is being excluded as it is to think about what is being included.

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