Tech + Lifestyle

games, gear, and googleplexes (joke)

Portraiture

Kind of a cryptic title, right? Give or take, that’s what I was going for. The subject matter is equally unclear, yet incredibly fitting for my blog, perhaps more so than any of my past writing here. Mostly I write about tech and PC gaming, with the occasional music review, political rant, or automotive coverage. Overall, I’ve got the Tech side of things pretty well covered. What about the + Lifestyle stuff? It’s my goal to create an ongoing discussion and analysis how how technology increasingly becomes part of everyday life – not just for the nerds out there, the fan-boys and the early adopters and the computer geeks, but for everyone else. How does technology affect the luddites – people who have largely avoided technological advances? Some even go out of their way to remain “offline,” as it were.

Despite their best efforts, technology is an intrinsic part of our world. It advances inexorably, permeating every part of life until eventually you cannot have one without the other. Technology is, at times, invasive; it is dispassionate, it doesn’t care if it helps or hurts you, whether it has given you a job or taken one away. It just is. The closest biological approximation to technology might be a virus – its sole purpose is propagation (from a certain, anthropomorphized point of view). It advances slowly in some areas, and with blinding speed in others; regardless, it continues to spread and evolve.

One of the more recent examples of technology’s pervasiveness is Google Street View. You might not have seen any yet, but Google has vehicles roaming the streets of major cities worldwide, each with large photographic apparatuses (I wish apparatii were the plural) attached. they photograph the cities in – you guessed it – “street view,” literally what places look like from the street.

Incidentally, the cars themselves have become something of a meme. The hunt for Google Street View cars is a hobby for some people; there are even websites dedicated to tracking the sightings of such cars. It’s oddly reminiscent of the obsession with UFOs.

Anyway, Street View is quite the controversial technology, when you think about it. The ability to browse satellite imagery and find top-down depictions your house, school, or business is quite charming, really. When you can use the same software to see a high-res image of your house, similar to something you might take on your camera, it borders on disturbing. Beyond that, if you happen to be one of the individuals actually photographed as you go about your life, it can feel like an invasion of privacy.

Already, there is a backlash that Google probably didn’t anticipate. People give Street View cars the finger. Women flash them. The drivers of these vehicles even feel uncomfortable – when interviewed, one went so far as to say that, “I know you want to take pictures but I don’t want to be in them,” that he was personally conflicted by the whole thing, and that he wanted to quit the job. Particularly in the UK, where citizens already have to deal with the Big Brother-esque machinations of their nanny-state government, Street View is thought to be nothing more than an invasion of privacy. They’ve even been sued to that effect.

Distrust aside, Street View has proven to be a fascinating, if somewhat accidental, look into the humor and tragedy of the human race. We fall down. We get hurt. We get married, we LARP, we break traffic laws. We fight, we get arrested, we get a little creepy. We use the toilet and we pick our noses. We are artists and optimists. Each of us is nobody and all of us are somebody. We are imperfect people, and we find beauty in our ugliness.

Did Google mean for Street View to become what it has? I doubt it. They’re more interested in making compelling technology that people will use. The more people use their stuff, the more advertising they can sell, the more money they can make, etc. Street View was just supposed to make it easier to find whatever you’re looking for.

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January 28, 2009 - Posted by | Tech | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] (vbc) vbc.style.visibility = ‘hidden’; e.style.backgroundColor = ‘#fff’ }); }); today Portraiture trackback from post […Kind of a cryptic title, right? Give or take, that’s what I was going […]

    Pingback by Google Maps Street View Video | January 28, 2009 | Reply


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