Monday, 11 August 2008

Google Streetview in Australia - hallo Melbourne

This morning had me on New Zealand Breakfast TV to discuss Streetview Australia, the latest out of the local Google stable of applications and ideas.
At its simplest you can describe it as another layer of Google Maps to complement the existing Map. Satellite and Terrain views.

By choosing the now additional Streetview option and then going to, for example, downtown Melbourne or Sydney, you get to put your self on La Trobe Street or Lonsdale, Melbourne,or Oxford Street, Sydney, click the button, and there you go - a wrap around picture view of the street in pictures - complete with passing cars and pedestrians.

The images have been taken by Google staff and the panorama of street-scape created by Google. There are even pictures of the Google cars on Flickr, here.

And yes, although initially skeptical, it does become strangely compelling - you can move yourself up the centre of Oxford Street, in Paddington, Sydney, have a look in the shop windows, look out for the buss of the day, and, if you have fond memories of Oxford Street on a Saturday immerse yourself in a quasi virtual version of Saturday in Paddington.

And yes there is to be a New Zealand version. The UK version is currently in development.

Privacy concerns?
To combat privacy concerns Google reckon they have smudged out both the registration numbers on cars, as well as peoples faces. I'm not so sure how successful this is, or how useful.

For example, most people are recognisable by the shape of their body, the way they hold themselves. Moreover, on the Internet surely identity isn't just about the sharpness of the image. It's also about who owns and controls yet another piece of the digital landscape, and crucially it's about trying to figure out where all the little bits of digital me are stored and distributed.

I discussed some of this with on TVNZ this morning. The video is here if you care to go and have look. I even made one of the editors picks!

EPIC - the great mash up of all time
As for Google, one the GREAT mash ups of all time is EPIC - a piece of video art which conjectures one scenario for the future of media in which Google and Amazon rule the world!

Since its first outing a couple of years ago, there has been a bit of a backlash as to whether it is too simplistic. Too authoritarian - doesn't allow us the ability to intervene, change the frame - or in the jargon, no room for 'agency'.

Whatever, it still works for me. It's real home, with Creative Commons imprint, is here. But Youtube also has a version which I have embedded.