Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Art, GPS, and Geography Combine

Over the weekend CNET ran a story about a Swedish art student that claims to have created the world's largest self-portrait using GPS and the package delivery service DHL. Whether or not the story is true is highly debatable, but regardless of truth it makes an interesting story and sparks an idea for combining Art, GPS, and Geography. The Swedish art student, Erik Nordenankar, created a world's largest self-portrait by sending a GPS device around the world through DHL. Nordenankar claims that he planned the routes the package would take so that the path of travel would represent a portrait. Embedded below is a video of Nordenankar demonstrating the project.



Applications for Education
Nordenankar's idea represents a great synthesis of technology and art. There isn't a public art teacher or geography teacher that could afford to try what Nordenankar did, but there are some free methods for simulating a similar experience. Students could create drawings using Google Earth or Google Maps by plotting placemarks in artistic shapes. After plotting the placemarks students can play "connect the dots" to complete the drawing. To incorporate an element of Social Studies students can research and report on the places where they plotted their placemarks.
If you have access to GPS units, students could recreate a project like Nordenankar's on a local scale.

Update: Nordenankar has confirmed on his website that the drawing was a hoax. None-the-less it's still a good synthesis of art and geography.