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Environment, Labour and Capitalism at SeaWorking the Ground' in Scotland$
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Penny McCall Howard

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781784994143

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784994143.001.0001

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From ‘where am I?’ to ‘where is that?’ Rethinking navigation

From ‘where am I?’ to ‘where is that?’ Rethinking navigation

(p.118) 4 From ‘where am I?’ to ‘where is that?’ Rethinking navigation
Environment, Labour and Capitalism at Sea

Penny McCall Howard

Manchester University Press

Chapter Four continues the discussion of techniques and technologies with a focus on orientation and navigation. The chapter draws on Tim Ingold’s and James Gibson’s descriptions of orientation as a process of movement through the landscape to find affordances. The chapter describes the techniques used locally for finding position from the 1960s onwards: dead-reckoning, and the use of radar, depth sounders, Decca, and GPS. Challenging anthropological accounts of ‘Western’ navigation that assume Westerners always rely on charts and instruments and that these alienate people from direct relations with their environment, the GPS chartplotter shows the perpetual importance of the subjective and experiential aspects of orientation in a digital age. The chapter argues that alienation is instead produced by relations of ownership and exploitation, and that the chartplotter facilitates the centralisation of fishing knowledge with the skipper and the employment of low-waged migrant workers as crew. While authors such as Edwin Hutchins describe navigation as answering the absolute question ‘where am I?’, the chapter proposes that the aim of navigation is usually to answer the relational question ‘where is that?’

Keywords:   Navigation, Orientation, Technology, Anthropology, GPS, Edwin Hutchins, Tim Ingold, James Gibson, Radar, Decca, Affordances, Depth sounder

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