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Tag Archives: google maps

I’m a fan of artists using Google Earth or Street View images, such as Jon Rafman’s compelling Street View images or Google’s Street Art View. Here, check out Clement Valla’s “Postcards from Google Earth, Bridges” project. Google Earth renders bridges quite imperfectly, and when these images are shown together, they remind us that Google’s project is not a pure and perfect digital simulation of our world, but, instead, the creation of something new. Something that can be judged aesthetically on its own standards even if they are created as, to quote the artist, “the result of algorithmic processes and not of human aesthetic decision making.”

As readers of this blog know well, this new creation born out of the intersection of the physical and digital is what we refer to as “augmented reality.” Sometimes augmented reality is the reality we always find ourselves in: physical, but always and increasingly influenced by digitality. Sometimes this augmented reality is a collection of imperfectly rendered bridges. For me, Valla’s art provocatively reinforces this important theoretical conceptualization.

More augmented reality art: Augmented EcologiesSiavosh Zabeti’s Facebook book; Michael Tompert’s photography of destroyed Apple products; Aram Bartholl’s embedding USB sticks into public spaces. And all of Valla’s “Postcards from Google Earth, Bridges” are found here.

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You probably have heard about Facebook Places, a feature that brings the site up to speed with other location-sharing services like Foursquare and Gowalla that allow users to document where they are, as well as potentially who they are with and other comments about that location.

The term “augmented reality” is often used to describe the layering of digital information onto the physical world [examples of where it is now, and where it might be going]. However, I have argued that augmented reality can also refer to our digital profiles becoming increasingly implicated with the material world. If the early days of the web were about going online as anyone you wanted to be, today, our Facebook profiles are more anchored in the reality of those we know in the physical world -and now are further enmeshed with physicality given these new location-based services.

New technologies –most prominently the sensor-packed smartphonemake possible our cyborg-like lives in an increasingly augmented reality [theorist Donna Haraway is especially important here]. More than just the augmentation of our digital profiles with physical-world information, we should also think about the ways in which digital documentation impacts our everyday, offline lives. With documentation in mind, do we alter our behaviors? Is it possible that we might experience a place differently when we are documenting it using a service like Facebook Places? Might we even change what place we go to? Or asked differently, to what degree can the tail of digital documentation come to wag the dog of lived experience? ~nathan