Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Ghosts on Google Maps

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

One of the most interesting collisions between an implementation of a technology and the state of the art, is the Street View feature on Google Maps. I love it. I play around with it a lot. Wandering around streets near locations I am headed towards or places I know well. It works really well on the iPhone so I often check out the Street View view of places where I am. I was doing this last night while at the Westbank Cafe with Akiko celebrating Tater’s girlfriend Kelli’s b’day.

I was looking at Street View with Tater, which was interesting because it was snowing last night in NYC and the Street View shots show a beautiful summer day and the construction on 42nd Street, that’s going on there now, is non-existant. But then we noticed something very strange going on with the bus across the street.

It’s like some kind of spirit photography or something. The bus appears to be running over some kind of alternate reality of itself. If you poke around on Street View you see a lot of this same kind of weirdness. It’s reminiscent of the kinds of things you see in early photography, when exposure times were longer. But it comes from the fact that we don’t really have a way of capturing images in a way that would solve this. Its a collision between the nature of conventional photography and the nature of virtual reality. Unintentionally artistic.

All maps contain a hint of time as well as space, but Street View (and Satellite view for that matter) amp up the sense of time to the point where it becomes spooky and weird.

It also reminds me of the extreme photography of Michael Wesely. He does long exposures. VERY long exposures. Years long. Here’s a blog with some of his pictures. I saw some of his “Open Shutter” photos at MOMA here in New York a few years back, and they had a profound effect on my sense of time. The more something moves the less you can see it in the pictures. Trees turn into trunks that slowly fade to sharp points. The sun is a series of rough edged streaks across the sky. There are no people.

Time… hmmm…

Now I’m imagining a Street View made from multi-year exposures. No cars or people. Scaffolding becomes a ghostly veil on buildings. Some entire buildings are only faintly there…

I was standing on a street corner here in New York a while back and the Google Street View imaging van passed right in front of me. Something happened later that day and I forgot where I was standing when it passed. So I don’t know but I could be out there somewhere in Street View. Maybe I’m right on a stitch and half of me is blurred into a parking meter, or another person… Or maybe they’ve updated that street again since then and I’m gone…

I actually kind of like that I don’t know. But if you happen to see me, stop and say hello…

Melbourne 5

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

The title of this post sounds like a singing group or a gang of super-heros or a TV detective show: “Melbourne Five”

Ok. So you may have noticed a change to the Blog. I signed up for Google’s AdSense program. This means that the box at the top of the page will be populated by links to advertisers that have been selected by Google’s algorithms (Al-Gore-isms) to be of interest to those interested in the content of the page. I’m curious about this. I’m interested in a number of things about it: Whether or not the kinds of things that show up in my ads will seem relevant, useful or helpful. Whether it becomes irritating. Whether it actually makes any money.

If you have thoughts about this, I encourage you to let me know. I’m not completely sure how I feel about it and figure getting it out there is a way to clarify my feelings. “I’m sorry your honor, I wasn’t sure how I felt about serial killing so I thought I’d try it out and see. Turns out it’s not my thing.”

Speaking of which: It seems that the “Comment” functionality on my Blog is down. I’m trying to figure it out but for the time being it doesn’t seem to be working. I’ll let you know when it’s back, so if you’ve got comments, save them up.

I’m also thinking about changing the name of the blog to something other than “Leon’s Weblog”. The current title has the advantage of descriptive accuracy, abut that’s about it. So stand by on that as well.

Saturday was election day in Australia. Australians are required to vote. They get fined about $40 if they don’t, so everyone has this thing today that’s kind of like jury duty in the states. They HAVE TO GO, but it’s a privilege. So it’s a total pain to be able to take part in this wonderful thing.

Given the political strategies in the States based on turn out alone, it’s interesting to think about what would happen if we had such a system in the U.S. Another option would be to declare elections with an insufficient turn out, invalid. Until we reach a certain percentage, let’s say 80 percent just to be ambitious, we don’t have a quorum and the election has to be done over. I know there are arguments about mandatory voting not representing the kind of freedom that Americans hold to, but it also seems clear that two big things that can derail a democracy are voter ignorance and apathy. Not that mandatory voting would make people any less apathetic or informed, but it might help. If you have to vote, you have to at least know something. You at least have to get up off the couch. I think it’s possible to argue that when you’ve got an overwhelming majority of the people in a country not voting, they’ve voted against the basic idea of democracy and it’s time for something else.

So Labor won. This, it seems, is a good thing. The Liberal coalition has been in power for almost 12 years. Most of my friends here compared this election to the next one in the US; a chance to get rid of an abusive government. Well it seems to have happened. It wasn’t a landslide but PM Howard seems to have lost not only his post but his Parliamentary seat as well. That’s gotta hurt.

The US election is almost a year away. Almost anything can happen in that time. I’m sure many things will. I’m haunted by something I heard Sy Hersh say a few weeks back: The Democrats are going to lose this thing if they don’t wake up. There’s time to wake up and there’s time to blow it. Only time will tell.