The Day Google Earth Stood Still, and Looked Like a Dali Painting.

The other day on Apartment Therapy, I read a really excellent feature on artist Clement Valla and the interesting things that he’s doing with Google Earth screenshots. Apparently, when the Google Earth viewpoint is in the exact right position, it creates a warped and surreal image as a result of trying to translate a three-dimensional landscape into a two-dimensional image. Try to wrap your mind around this:




By way of explanation, Valla says: “I am collecting these new typologies as a means of conservation–as Google Earth improves its 3D models, its terrain, and its satellite imagery, these strange, surrealist depictions of our built environment and its relation to the natural landscape will disappear in favor of better illusionistic imagery. However, I think these strange mappings of the 2-dimensional and the 3-dimensional provide us with fabulous forms that are purely the result of algorithmic processes and not of human aesthetic decision making. They are artifacts worth preserving.”

These photos are so fascinating to me because they expose the small flaws in technology that I usually think of as infallible. I think about how much technology has advanced just in the past fifteen years or so, and how it continues to advance so rapidly, and how someday the technology that is cutting-edge right now will become esoteric, and it’s both an exciting and disconcerting thought.

Another strange thought: I think that my age group is the last generation that will be able to remember a time before the internet and cell phones. I can remember living in Michigan when I was in elementary school, and my family was considered very high-tech because we had a car phone. I can remember having a giant, boxy computer in our home office, before the internet existed, that we could only use to type or to play a Carmen San Diego game that was so pixelated and graphically rough. I can remember writing papers in middle school and early high school, before there was Google or any other class of search engine, and having to actually use books as all of my references. I can remember what having a cell phone was like before texting existed.

Reading back over those last four sentences, it feels even more bizarre to compare those memories to what is a present reality, what with all of the iPhones and laptops and Kindles and iPads and smart phones permeating the everday lives of people who don’t even own them (ie. me). It’s strange to be able to stand with one foot in both worlds. And it’s strange to think that I have these memories of a time before the internet, but my youngest brother, who is only five years younger than me, doesn’t. It’s such a small window of time that everything kind of exploded in a technological sense. And someday there will probably be kids who don’t remember what it was like to have textbooks in school or to have a phone with actual number buttons instead of a touch screen. All of which is to say: technology is weird.


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