June 13, 2006

Régine Debatty at Sonar


Google Earth & Google Maps Hacks

From UFO to George Clooney sightings, from the nearest Kosher restaurant to the nearest sex offender, from the location of avian flu outbreaks to a review of the greenest golf course, from fresh beers to a new partner to share them with… As part of its restless bid to rule the worlds – both the online and the offline ones - Google has made it easy for us to find anything we need. Google wasn’t the first to offer interactive online street maps and routing but its powerful and highly readable system makes us wonder why we used to be so thrilled with good old Yellow Pages.

When the search engine released Google Maps in February 2005, independent programmers seized the opportunity to customize the system. Four months later, Google released the API that took the mapping application to the next level, allowing hackers and amateurs to refashion maps that geographically illustrate any kind of vital or outlandish information. Diluted into this grassroots plethora of Google Map hacks (have a look at the Google Maps Mania blog and you’ll see what I mean), one can find here and there projects that explore the possibilities of Google Maps under an artistic perspective.

It doesn’t mean that artists are slow to jump on the bandwagon. They just didn’t wait for Google to engineer the tools that would allow them to renew our experience of topography. I’m not only referring to the locative media trend which emerged over the last half decade but also to works that anticipated, well ahead of their time, what Google Earth would one day be. In 1994 already, ART+COM came up with "Terravision", an installation that enabled users to navigate –topographically but also chronologically– in a 3D model of the globe by moving a tracking device in front of a projection of the Earth.

And in the ‘80s, Michael Naimark’s "Golden Gate Fly-over" moviemap allowed users to navigate around the San Francisco Bay Area at fast speeds using images filmed by a gyro-stabilized helicopter camera and satellite navigation. Hopefully, the pieces selected for the Digital Art a la Carte section demonstrate that if one of the roles of artists is to pioneer technologies and applications, another one is to offer a fresh perspective on those that have already fallen into the mainstream.

Anders Weberg & Robert Willim, "Surreal Scania"

Christine Hanson, "Delocator"

Jim Nachlin, "GarbageScout"

Michael Frumin, Eyebeam R&D "OGLE"

Rick Silva, "Satellite Jockey"

Steve Coast, "Openstreetmap"

Zack Denfield, Nika Smith, Brent Fogt, Kyle Mulka, "Blue Puddle"

Sonar Festival--Digital à la carte: 15 June, 2006

Régine Debatty writes and makes research about the way artists are (mis)using emerging technologies. She is also a consultant for corporations, festivals and art commissions.

Posted by jo at June 13, 2006 11:44 AM