Taking a Look at Google Street View

Both CNN and the New York Times carry a stories on how Google Street View may be too good. The Times quotes individuals who believe that the service is an invasion of privacy—although as Google points out, you could see more driving down the street…maybe those concerned should try curtains? CNN points out that the random nature of Street View's photography means that you get a slice of life which sometimes can be rather unseemly (I'll leave it to the story to explain) or unwelcome, e.g. protesters in front of abortion clinics who might make clients nervous.

photo of guy breaking into house

Link (via Mashable)

We should side with Google on this one. As a photographer, I've been concerned by the twisted limits on our freedom to take pictures that have emerged after 9/11. I don't see how (or why…surely any terrorist clever enough to take down a bridge will be clever enough to get past such silly limitations) anyone can restrict my right to take photographs from bridges or in tunnels, but on your way in and out of the city, signs clearly denote otherwise. Taking photos of certain office buildings and infrastructural installations will often get you a visit from security, but these characters will often wilt if you hold out the Photographer's Bill of Right, drawn up by a lawyer, to them. And although I couldn't find a reference, some architects seem to believe that by copyrighting their buildings it is possible for them to prevent unauthorized photographs. If enforceable, I suppose that would be a good way to ensure that historians will write them out of history. No images, no discussion. I'll be glad to hold to that policy.

I doubt that the Myspace generation would have qualms about having their likeness or their house's likeness on the Web, but other generations still cling to older models of privacy (anybody have the demographics on sales of shredders?) and, in this case, their "right to privacy," which is not enshrined in the Constitution, infringes on freedom of speech, which is.

But there's more to Google Street View.

Having investigated the work of the Architecture Machine Group in a course last fall, naturally, I was impressed by how Google has finally delivered the Aspen moviemap, developed by Michael Naimark, nearly 40 years later. The other precedent, is quite obviously, the first person shooter (games such as Doom, Marathon, or America's Army), which is not unrelated. Like many of the Architecture Machine Group's projects, Aspen was funded by military research. In Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture, Alex Galloway points out how the first person viewpoint of such games is at odds with previous cinematic practice. Instead of montage and rupture, the first person shooter demonstrates the video game's obsession with seamlessness and continuity. This is what Google Street View, like the Aspen Moviemap before it, delivers, making it a great example of Network Culture.

Both CNN and the New York Times carry a stories on how Google Street View may be too good. The Times quotes individuals who believe that the service is an invasion of privacy—although as Google points out, you could see more driving down the street…maybe those concerned should try curtains? CNN points out that the random nature of Street View's photography means that you get a slice of life which sometimes can be rather unseemly (I'll leave it to the story to explain) or unwelcome, e.g. protesters in front of abortion clinics who might make clients nervous.

photo of guy breaking into house

Link (via Mashable)

We should side with Google on this one. As a photographer, I've been concerned by the twisted limits on our freedom to take pictures that have emerged after 9/11. I don't see how (or why…surely any terrorist clever enough to take down a bridge will be clever enough to get past such silly limitations) anyone can restrict my right to take photographs from bridges or in tunnels, but on your way in and out of the city, signs clearly denote otherwise. Taking photos of certain office buildings and infrastructural installations will often get you a visit from security, but these characters will often wilt if you hold out the Photographer's Bill of Right, drawn up by a lawyer, to them. And although I couldn't find a reference, some architects seem to believe that by copyrighting their buildings it is possible for them to prevent unauthorized photographs. If enforceable, I suppose that would be a good way to ensure that historians will write them out of history. No images, no discussion. I'll be glad to hold to that policy.

I doubt that the Myspace generation would have qualms about having their likeness or their house's likeness on the Web, but other generations still cling to older models of privacy (anybody have the demographics on sales of shredders?) and, in this case, their "right to privacy," which is not enshrined in the Constitution, infringes on freedom of speech, which is.

But there's more to Google Street View.

Having investigated the work of the Architecture Machine Group in a course last fall, naturally, I was impressed by how Google has finally delivered the Aspen moviemap, developed by Michael Naimark, nearly 40 years later. The other precedent, is quite obviously, the first person shooter (games such as Doom, Marathon, or America's Army), which is not unrelated. Like many of the Architecture Machine Group's projects, Aspen was funded by military research. In Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture, Alex Galloway points out how the first person viewpoint of such games is at odds with previous cinematic practice. Instead of montage and rupture, the first person shooter demonstrates the video game's obsession with seamlessness and continuity. This is what Google Street View, like the Aspen Moviemap before it, delivers, making it a great example of Network Culture.

One thought on “Taking a Look at Google Street View

  1. Google street view
    Image is of:
    a. Alex Vilar performing “Upward Mobility”
    b. a person locked out of their own place
    c. burglar

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