POWERED BY Google: The Agency of Mapping in the 21st Century

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Presentation Title:

  • POWERED BY Google: The Agency of Mapping in the 21st Century

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Abstract:

  • The power leveraged by contemporary mapping technologies is extraordinary. Only a month ago CNN reported the discovery (through Google Maps) of a US naval base in San Diego that was constructed in the form of a Swastika. As a result of this finding the US government will reportedly spend $600,000 to modify the 40-year-old complex. Mapping technologies have had a profound effect on the the way we understand place, yet few have critically investigated the dynamics of power at play within these tools. Google has quietly built a monopoly on how we view the globe.

    This piece ultimately questions Google’s activity in digitizing, repackaging, and re-branding the globe. It investigates the layers of mediation that operate amidst mapping and land informationalization, while simultaneously questioning the inherent trust in these methods/technologies. The work subsequently explores how the collision of the informational and the physical control, reconfi gure notions of place. Google’s work is ultimately less about describing reality, than reshaping the places we inhabit. “Powered By Google” exists as a web application that distorts and transforms the topology of a given location through the user’s interaction with Google Maps, the most notable web mapping service. It creates an inversion in scale, in that as the user gets increasingly closer to a specific site (zooming in) the more fragmented and obscured the land information becomes. The location becomes an abstraction of place; an agglomeration of maps and logos; the convergence of a site and it’s mediation.

    Implementation Details:
    On the surface the piece precisely mirrors Google’s mapping interface. However, the site continuously fractures and reconfigures the topography of a place through the user’s interaction/navigation. As the user zooms in progressively closer to their desired locale, the image and experience progressively degrade. At the highest zoom level the original map is broken into a hundred different maps and the screen is engulfed in “Powered By Google” logos.

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