No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Monday, October 4, 2010

Surprises in the System

Everyone in the college that I reside at this year received an email that Google maps will be on campus today gathering images for their street view feature. As you are no doubt aware, the mapping site operates so that you can type in a location and then, in order to get a better sense of what to expect at the address, select to view it via google's street view feature. Upon doing so the site will zoom in on real recorded images taken by a special google car (in some cases the camera was mounted on a bicycle, believe it or not) rolling slowly down the street that you're now viewing on your computer. Google has organized a massive worldwide effort to systematically drive down and record every street in the world for this program. There are a few cases, in the Czech Republic, for example, where an area has refused to allow google to pursue the process. The reasons, apparently, are based in questions of privacy.

For those places where google has successfully pursued the effort, you can get a real picture of the place you're exploring. However, there are a ton of instances embedded into the system of really surprising and ridiculous images casually recorded as normal everyday realities for the address being viewed. Some of the pictures have been made through people intentionally acting out in response to the camera, while others are accidental records made by the internet system. I have a fantasy that someone on campus here is organizing to intentionally insert such a rebellion into google maps.

Following are some examples from google maps street view feature that crack me up. (All images really found in google maps street view feature.)

Imagine it: You're in the Ozarks and decide you'd like to go see your friend in Arkansas. While making sure you know what the neighborhood the barbecue is in looks like you happen upon this:

Or, this:

In Australia:
The story I have since found online is that this guy was actually drunkenly passed out and got captured by the cameras.

In France:

In Brazil:

And finally, two of my favorites from Ireland (though the first image is also admittedly sad).

Imagine it. You're planning a trip to the Irish countryside and need the best route to that stone church you read so much about, and while getting a sense of what the drive will look like you come upon these:


  1. I laughed out loud at the dog pooping in Brazil.

    Interesting that they want to do all the roads in the world. I expect that rural areas will take a few years to get to. Case in point: my hometown. I tried to use google maps to do the new Arcade Fire music video, which you need google chrome for (but you can just delete it afterwards) because you type in the postal code of your hometown and as the song plays images of your neighbourhood are incorporated into the video. Apparently it's amazing and tear jerking for some; in Fenelon you can't get any closer than 1 km above ground, so not so much for me.

  2. Yes. The dog pooping almost killed me. Alaska is also incredibly blurry and only viewed from above ground. Ah well.