Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Misleading GPS Use

As someone who majored in geography and has some knowledge of computer science and graphics, I really admire the surge in popularity of GPS navigational tools.  What annoys me, however, is when they are misleadingly used in the context of something completely irrelevant to GPS.
One party guilty of such would be my college's career services department.  Last year they held two large career fairs, intended for all students in all academic programs.  My little geography-major self was so excited to see the cover of the handout:
Ooh a GPS! But with Career Services written where the manufacturer's name should be! Maybe Navteq's here, they have an office a few miles away for traffic.com.  Maybe Garmin, or Tomtom, or Google, or ESRI, or one of those big names, or heck maybe someone who wants geography majors to work with their awesome computerized geodata.  While there were a handful of representatives from companies willing to talk to geography majors for positions completely unrelated to geography, pretty much nobody was hiring for GIS.  Every engineering firm I met with either had a fully-staffed team or was planning to stick with paper maps. As far as the companies that showed up, there was definitely no Navteq, or Garmin, or Tomtom, or Google, or ESRI, or anything even close.  And definitely no company with anything to do with navigational software.  Well, maybe if you count the military, but I doubt they use devices intended for an ordinary car dashboard, like the one pictured above. False advertising, Career Services!
The other guilty party that comes to mind is this series of ads that began last year (and to my dismay have returned for this tax season):
What does tax preparation have in common with driving? Maybe they're both annoying and time-consuming? I guess it's because TurboTax is supposed to water down and simplify the tax preparation process, so you don't get "lost" in a maze of bureaucratic instructional paperwork, bizarre worksheets and random W-2 copies. But the "lost" sensation of "I'm so lost! This tax return form is confusing!" is a different kind of "lost" than "I'm so lost! I missed my exit!", neither of which of course is related to the ABC show Lost.  So while not false advertising, it is misleading use of the term GPS.  Do you think anyone at that ad agency even knows what GPS stands for or how it works? Or is there, in fact, a system of orbiting satellites which can complete my 1040? Can they triangulate?

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