Essays, reviews, and interviews on art, culture, technology, and the environment

An Old American Problem, Art Practical

Today, with the ever-expanding visibility of public space facilitated by online image databases such as Google Street View and Google Images, it is now possible to “be” almost anywhere, all from the comfort of your home, favorite café, or anywhere with a decent internet connection. As a readily accessible research tool, the images recorded by Google’s cameras and archived in their search engines allow users to become world travelers for nothing more than the cost of a Wi-Fi password. This new privilege inspires wanderlust-inducing listicles such as, “16 Amazing Places to Visit Via Google Street View,” which links readers to everywhere from the Adélie Penguin Rookery in Antarctica to Times Square in New York City. However, with our unprecedented connectivity comes a simple, all-too-common oversight of the plugged-in public: Not everyone enjoys the same access, and not every place has the same visibility. What are the implications of people, places, and things we can view online, and what meaning can we find in the gaps?

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