Google vs Death, Round 2

Monday 23 March 2009

Google Street View has finally launched in the UK and is already out of date. This is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned. I’m more interested in checking up on where I used to be than where I am now, despite the new pictures looking like they’re better quality than the Australian ones (and the taunts about growing up in a tip).
The Google camera car went up my street last summer. In fact, it went up my street twice:


I’ve talked before about how Street View’s illusion of the present masks a preserved version of the recent past, already decaying and proving less and less true to reality. Now we can see street corners that exist simultaneously in two time zones at once.
For most Britons, the illusory, alternate-reality nature of Street View is immediately visible in the high streets. The economic downturn has worsened in the time between the photos being taken and appearing on the web. Google’s Britain is a brighter, nostalgic land with fewer boarded-up shopfronts, where Woolworths, MFI, Zavvi, and other chain stores are still in business.

Back in Australia, the emerging anomalies are more poignant. On the main street of the town of Marysville in Victoria, the season abruptly changes from summer to winter for a few metres; then just as suddenly, the sky clears, the ground dries up again, and the trees regain their leaves. Of course, neither version is true: we know the town was all but obliterated by fire last month.

(Crossposted at Sarsaparilla Lite.)
  1. It was quite surreal looking at Marysville on Google Earth on the day of the fires, black Saturday. It has become a bit like face book entries just before people die. It was very sad but a number of younger people who were killed in the fires on the Saturday blogged about how hot it was going to be on the Weekend, sometimes only hours before the fire hit.