• Trace Me

    This project explores Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and remote surveillance technologies and their use in art. Through my work, I hope to stimulate political, social and   cultural dialog around privacy, ethics, human rights and other issues to be determined.

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ARTIST'S STATEMENT

I always wondered why my father would complain when installing software on his computer, grunting at the lengthy "End User License Agreement" that you are forced to agree to. Personally, I figured it was just as simple as hitting the "I agree" checkbox and moving on. I suspect that with each new generation of our population, we have become less and less worried about our privacy.

This led me to thinking about my iPhone and how I allow my friends, family and significant other the privilege of tracking my GPS location at all times. I figure, I have nothing (much) to hide, so I might as well let everyone know what I am up to. It may just save my life one day if I am ever stranded or I get lost in the woods.

So I made the decision to track and record ALL of my activity using my iPhone. This would allow me to turn the raw data into a visual rendering of my daily life. Again, the advanced tracking technology is out there, to the extent that some large corporation somewhere or government agency in Virginia can determine where I am and what I am doing at all times. 

This project will continue on as a series, with each iteration building upon the previous findings. All GPS tracks, routes and waypoints will be published to the worldwide web, with gallery sized framed prints to be displayed whenever and wherever possible. Let's open up "Pandora's Box" and see what we discover!

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Detail view of GPS tracks showing my exact routes and coordinates during the initial seven day tracking period. Darker lines show routes that were travelled more often.

The Process

I tracked my every movement using GPS for seven days during the month of March, 2015. The resulting data was rendered and prints were made depicting my journey.

  • Step 1:  GPS Tracking

    I installed the Trckr app by Alexey Kuznetsov to track my GPS movement. The app allowed me to use my iPhone 6 Plus to track and then export the seven days worth of GPS data in .GPX format for further analysis. Download My GPX File

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  • Step 2:  GIS Visualization

    The open source QGIS Geographic Information System software was used to import the Trckr .GPX output files (XML Format). GPS Tracks, routes and waypoints were then analyzed and formatted for final rendering.

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  • Step 3:  Final Rendering

    After experimenting with various rendering options, I opted to print the absolute minimal outline of the GPS tracker lines. This was because I feel the work should allow its own interpretation of my events rather than plotting points on a crowded map. Final print size of 10.5" x 13" was selected.

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Closing Remarks

I was surprised to find that I had tracked over 250,000 individual track points in just 7 days. Most of my travels were between school and home, and I am eager to analyze the data after, say, a long vacation through Europe. This project has opened up my eyes to further experimentation with GPS, and has already allowed me to start compelling dialogs with friends and family with whom I have shared the project with. I also found that (due to my current printing constraints) the scale of the framed "Trace Me" piece is undersized. In future iterations of the work, I will need to experiment with large format printing in order to achieve poster and wall-sized images that will allow for proper interpretation of the detailed routes. Stay tuned for more dialog, data experimentation and fresh presentation ideas.

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