Citizen Cartographers

I’ve been doing a little research on user practices of Google Street View, and through an oblique angle, I keep finding myself returning to Google’s call for ‘Citizen Cartographers Unite!’ to contribute to their mapping project. It’s not directly tied to Google Street View, so I feel like I need to be careful with how far I wade into this, but it seems to lend itself nicely to my overall inquiry of locating agency with what increasingly points toward the fascist regime of Google.

I’m thinking about fascism in relation to ATP, and the lines of flight that the fascist regime encourages, only to re-axiomatize them into the larger existing plane of organization. This feels pretty appropriate for Google: they encourage innovative and inventive practices and strategies, often partner with projects that serve to highlight their projects: I’m thinking of the Arcade Fire video “Wilderness Downtown”, but also thinking about a couple studies they helped fund that seek to establish the feasibility or efficacy of using Street View to augment research, or their complicity in projects like “Street With a View”. In sum, Google is very interested in all the creative minds that take their efficient regime and problematize, utilize, augment, alter, etc., the visual archive. I think in part, this is very much a part of their roots of a renegade bent, their early mantra of ‘don’t be evil’, and the social good that is coming out of some of their efforts. I’m under no illusion that it’s pure good. Nor do I think they are purely evil and out to control the world. But. I think there is something to be said for the democratization of the mapping process and what happens when you enable citizens to alter the map.

Of course, there are enormous issues that come out of that sentence, some of which are a direct tie to my topic, some are only tangential; regardless, I think it’s impossible to read their efforts in only a negative light. I guess in the coming weeks I’ll fully flesh this out, just in time for the AAG! My co-conspirator and I have organized two panels for the AAG: Geophilosophy and the Planes of Urban Experience. Stay tuned.