Monday 15 December 2008

Space is Data, Data is Space

I noticed this morning that the Google Maps application on my iPhone now has Street View available for many areas. I was trying it out and before the Street View loads, you get a kind of empty, holodeck-esque space (which a user can still navigate around briefly).

And while the data was loading, I looked "up":

This virtual dome reminded me of the Planetarium ceiling in the Washington D.C. Smithsonian Museum before the projections start.

What I find interesting about Google Maps and Google in general is that Google treats the World as (for the sake of argument) unemotional and unbiased data. The place where you grew up: data, the address of the party you're going to: data, the Vatican: data and essentially, that's all these things are. People place meaning on spaces where Google sees them as a part of a massive collective (I've got to use a word other than "data") information harvesting exercise. The internet was originally coined as 'Cyberspace' but the sense of "space" on the internet is completely different to the sense of space in the real world. Granted there's things like Second Life, but the Google Earths and the Google Street View are both based on emulating the REAL WORLD. No doubt advertising will eventually change this nicely naive time.


The thing I like about Google's street view technology is that it's the closest point between the virtual sense of space (as a representation) and the real sense of space (as someone walking around the World, all Flaneur-like). Street View Tourism, anyone?

An aside: Google seems to attempt to document a street when it's as empty as possible and people have been hacking this rather nicely.