Monday, March 15, 2010

Miscellaneous Monday: GPS Drawing

Tomasz Berezinski, a Polish immigrant and a Brooklyn resident, took up an interesting hobby in the fall of 2008. Berezinski's GPS runs, referred to as "invisible graffiti" by some, were inspired by his desire to get into shape and to explore New York City. The idea is this: he strategically plans out a route for his run by drawing on a map, he brings a GPS tracker with him, and he hits the road. When his run (or series of runs) is complete, he uploads the GPS data onto There are many walkers, joggers, and bikers like Berezinski who are now acting as cartographers as they track their progress and create interesting maps through their route choices. Many GPS drawers claim that they end up discovering new and interesting aspects of their city's landscape by planning their runs or rides this way. Below is a GPS drawing of a dog that was generated by a runner in New York City.

GPS data can be collected by many different devices and can be uploaded to any number of software applications. These days, watches, iPhones, and Blackberry's are GPS enabled, and software applications such as MapMyRunMotionX-GPS, and Run Keeper, make it easy to share this artwork through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Of course, GPS data can also be imported into ArcMap and can be overlaid onto aerial images of the city or street line shapefiles.

But the concept of creating GPS-based art is not an entirely novel concept. Started around 2000, GPS Drawing is a website created by Jeremy Wood that is dedicated to displaying GPS-generated drawings. There are some very interesting projects showcased on the website, including a series of drawings created by tracking his lawn mower with a GPS device. Other drawings go beyond land routes; his GPS Gallery also includes sea and air routes that were transformed into GPS drawings. A lot of the items in the Gallery also include the author's account of the route he took and how he went about creating the drawing. The following image shows a star that was created by an airplane flying across Europe.

While it is a fun hobby that enthusiasts enjoy sharing with one another, GPS drawing has also gained serious recognition. In 2009, Wood was featured in the Cartographic Journal for his work. His website also includes information about seminars and workshops for GPS drawings.