Streetview is Google’s expansion of mapping into panoramas that can be viewed as an on-screen image. The fascination of a satellite picture, which is half way between a photograph and a map, is extended into an immersive image captured at a specific GPS location that can be panned around and traversed to another precise viewpoint via pop-up navigation tools. The quality of being able to journey within a map is reminiscent of Baudrillard’s metaphor for Simulation derived from Borges’ Story On Exactitutde in Science, where the map has the same scale as the territory. In Street View the voyager is tracked within the territory’s gaze.

Digital photography and screen capture share the same binary basis with the computer screen analagous to the screen on a digital cameras and phones. A new dimension to landscape photography is that any landscape photograph is now preceded by a Street View panorama. By extension a landscape photograph has the additional function of mapping and surveillance. Street View itself is now being used as a source of images that are variously street photography, landscapes and social documents, which, however, speak more of the underlying narratives that underpin the creation and reception of images rather than any reference to a social reality. The social reality is the Street View/viewer relationship.

Streetview is not a seamless representation. Glitches interrupt the uniformity of the image. Often the image stitching is misaligned or overlapped. Often a subject in the area at the bottom of the image close to the camera vehicle appears distorted or blurred and unjoined from a more clearly photographed part of itself. People have their faces blurred out or are smeared across the screen or are stitched together as misaligned smudged blurs combined with focused fragments.

There is a veracity to an image lacking the unity and authority of a conventional photograph that brings it closer to our collaged cognition. The Street View image is replete with traces of the user in the form of layered information responding to the movement of a pointing device but also registers their visits to the data miners. Unlike a multi-user virtual world, you cannot interact with other visitors to Street View. Instead users can upload their photos at the position on the map they were taken. In earlier versions of Street View these images spring into view as the mouse rolled over their thumbnail within a panonaramic scene. The stitching algorithm attempts to join these pop-outs into the scene resulting in distortions of the image that resemble the irregular geometries of constructivist paintings.

The genesis of the stadium is as a spectral instrument of fascination and control.
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The London Olympic site was mapped for Street View while still under construction. Workers in safety hats and hi-viz vests are part of the scene as they are in the Colosseum. In the Berlin Olympic stadium the Street View camera photographs itself on the huge digital screens that are now customary stadium furniture. The Olympic park is a controlled space surrounded by security fences and surveillance paraphanelia. Physical access to sporting events is through a fenced and gated perimeter. With the internet and broadcast media the place is experienced through a screen whether through Street View or television coverage of sports events.

After 3,500 years of city mapping, we have arrived at a point of zero abstraction, at a point where the true representation of the earth appears on our monitors and is updated continuously, quickly and with ever-sharper images. Google Street View, the most advanced level of the city representation, makes it possible to dive into the map and even become a part of it. Eventually the map will become the entrance gate to the online world. It already lends access to websites and, in the case of museums, to entire buildings and exhibitions. Through the map, real space will ultimately merge with virtual space. The map of real space will guide us through the World Wide Web while the virtual map guides us through the real world. Holding the key is the owner of the map, who possesses the access code to both worlds.

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