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Locative Technologies and the Human Sense of Place: A History of Spatial Literacy, 1800-2020

We study how people have navigated in nature, and our relationship with nature over time.

About the project

The human sense of place has come under pressure in the digital age. New technologies, such as GPS, have cut us off from nature. You have probably heard stories that car drivers uncritically follow GPS directions, act against what should be their better judgment, following the voice of their GPS units into rivers, against one-way streets, along abandoned forest trails, even getting lost in the desert.

When the technological world around us gets smarter and more connected, do we get dumber?

As locative technologies seem to be changing what it means to be human, we are witnessing a technologically-driven moral panic quite similar to what historians of technology have

argued develops around many new technologies. This project will evaluate contemporary claims about the impact of locative technologies on the human sense of place through historical research.

Karen Lykke Syse will study how tourists and trekkers have navigated and come to know natural landscapes through localtive technologies since 1800.


The primary objective of the project is to demonstrate how locative technologies are cultural and phenomenological bundles of relationships that can only be understood through deep empirical and historical studies.

This objective will be reached through the following sub-objectives:

  1. The theoretical objective is to develop a historically robust concept of spatial literacy.
  2. The methodological objective is to develop and refine mediation, annotation, and delegation as analytical tools for understanding the role of locative technologies in the human relationship to the world.
  3. The empirical objective is to evaluate if there are fundamental differences in how digital and non-digital forms of locative technology influence the sense of place and operate within gendered spheres.

PhD project

In the PhD project, candidate Erica Colman-Denstad will explore the relationship between the mapping and structuring of landscapes, and the way people have described and navigated them. She will discuss the difference, if there is one, between navigating “natural” landscapes, and following strands of civilization such as networks of trails and paths.


The Norwegian Research Council. FRIHUMSAM Programme. Project no 287969.



  • Coulter, Kimberly; Hardenberg, Wilko Graf von & Jørgensen, Finn Arne (2022). Spaces : What’s at stake in their digital public histories? In Noiret, Serge; Tebeau, Mark & Gerben, Zaagsma (Ed.), Handbook of digital public history. Walter de Gruyter (De Gruyter). ISSN 9783110439229. p. 223–233. doi: 10.1515/9783110430295-019.
  • Jørgensen, Finn Arne (2022). Walking and Worlding : Trails as Storylines in Video Games. In Svensson, Daniel; Saltzman, Katarina & Sörlin, Sverker (Ed.), Pathways : Exploring the routes of a movement heritage. White Horse Press. ISSN 9781912186600. p. 186–200. doi: 10.3197/63787710662654.ch09. Full text in Research Archive
  • Jørgensen, Finn Arne (2022). The armchair traveller's guide to digital environmental humanities. In Travis, Charles; Dixon, Deborah P.; Bergmann, Luke; Legg, Robert & Crampsie, Arlene (Ed.), Routledge handbook of the digital environmental humanities. Routledge. ISSN 9780367536633. p. 40–55.
  • Von Essen, Erica; Van der Wal, René; Turnbull, Jonathon; Searle, Adam & Hofmeester, Tim R. (2022). Wildlife in the Digital Anthropocene: Examining human-animal relations through surveillance technologies. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. ISSN 2514-8486. doi: 10.1177/25148486211061704. Full text in Research Archive
  • Syse, Karen Lykke (2022). Hefting the Land: A Locative Heritage of Hooves and Feet. In Svensson, Daniel; Saltzman, Katarina & Sörlin, Sverker (Ed.), Pathways : Exploring the routes of a movement heritage. White Horse Press. ISSN 9781912186600. p. 97–113.
  • Fojuth, Marie-Theres (2021). Northwards: How Norway became a destination for German car tourism, 1920s–1960s. Scandinavian Journal of History. ISSN 0346-8755. doi: 10.1080/03468755.2021.1950048. Full text in Research Archive
  • Fojuth, Marie-Theres (2020). Mapped railway dreams, geographical knowledge and the Norwegian Parliament, 1845–1908. Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift. ISSN 0029-1951. doi: 10.1080/00291951.2020.1851756.

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  • Syse, Karen Lykke (2022). Why we walk were we walk: Exploring the particularities of everyday movement.
  • Syse, Karen Lykke (2022). «At norsk gjæstfrihed er ikke nogen handelsvare» Om uanmeldte og ubudne gjester i fjell og dal - kulturell motstand 1830-1900.
  • Fojuth, Marie-Theres (2022). Verden på trykk: Kart, kunnskap og konflikter.
  • Fojuth, Marie-Theres (2022). Autowandern: Exploring Landscapes through the German Automobile Club ADAC and its Maps, 1903-2022.
  • Fojuth, Marie-Theres (2022). Frontrutas nordiske landskap – tysk bilturisme i Skandinavia på 1950- og 1960-tallet.
  • Colman-Denstad, Erica (2021). Breaking norms of caution: technology and agency in wild places.
  • Syse, Karen Lykke (2021). Menneskers og dyrs vandringer i et kulturhistorisk perspektiv.
  • Syse, Karen Lykke (2021). Hooves, feet and paths.
  • Syse, Karen Lykke (2021). Hooves and feet, places and paths: Consensuality in Past and Present Norwegian Landscapes.
  • Jørgensen, Finn Arne & Fojuth, Marie-Theres (2020). Stedsansen - en samtale om teknologiene mellom hjernen og verden.
  • Jørgensen, Finn Arne (2020). Bilen og hytta - en kjærlighetshistorie.
  • Fojuth, Marie-Theres (2020). Fridtjof Nansen: En ferd til Spitsbergen 1920.
  • Fojuth, Marie-Theres (2020). Bilturisten i fjordlandskapet: Om å være hjemme i den store naturen.
  • Jørgensen, Finn Arne (2019). Blir veien til mens man går? Stedssansen i en teknologisk tid.
  • Jørgensen, Finn Arne (2019). Wayfinding, environment, and technology.

View all works in Cristin

Published Jan. 16, 2019 4:45 PM - Last modified Jan. 20, 2021 3:53 PM