Saturday, June 09, 2007

Google's Street Views Getting Existential Slants

In lieu of guest bloggers or contributors to this blog,
I've opted to publish some of the mail I receive on a daily
basis which often makes good reading for bloggers.

An Mailing
WebProNews -
Google's Street Views Getting Existential Slants

June 09, 2007

by Jason Lee Miller | Staff Writer
There hasn't been something this fascinating and disturbing
since AOL's Data Valdez. Google's Street Views feature on
its Maps service raises a lot of questions about privacy,
public domain, and humanity itself.

If we think loftily enough, we could say what's revealed through
this feature is another step in the evolution of the Web, or better,
the revolution of the Web, where humans are forced to take a
good hard, and honest, look at themselves on a level the world
just hasn't been able to before.

Hence all the nervousness. And clashing minds. Coming to grips
is never easy.

Yesterday, I reported on the Thong Girl (a little late, it looks
like - I've been on vacation), which has since been removed from
Google Maps. It's good to know that Google is at least offering
those caught in whatever inglorious act to opt out of their
surveillance. For a small fee of a slightly bruised dignity.

If you were writing fiction, there are lots of guiding maxims, all
of which limit the writer in some way, heightening his art.
Nonfiction has a different set of rules, less limiting, and the best
maxim for one in the business of making things up is "the truth is
no excuse." This means that just because it happened in real life,
it doesn't mean it's believable.

This makes fiction abstract art because, though intended to
capture some slice of human existence, it can't be too true to
reality, and can be inappropriate for examining the hard
foundation of gritty existence. Nonfiction - and pictures of humans
doing human things - transcends in that way.

And while we can make a case for the benefits of indexing this
slice of the world's information, it's most definitely time to push
Google, and all of us, to consider if that's what we really want.
Taking a good hard look at yourself, even if healthy in the long
run, just plain sucks in the grimy, stunningly honest interim.

You can blame Joe DiPasquale, founder and CEO of CollegeWikis
for the preceding digression. He lets Sonia Arrison at
TechNewsWorld in on a fascinating (and incredibly academic)
concept :

People's expectations will change. Things will become less
shocking; this is the acceleration of the acceptance of humanity.

That's nice and Pollyanna. It would be great to see that happen -
that after coming face to face with itself, after seeing all the
laugh lines, the crows' feet, the scars, the blemishes, the things
we try to cover with make up to create a better public face, we
understand, know, and like each other better.

That's a nice fiction I can crawl into and love.

But here's what's really going to happen: People are going to be
angry and shocked, judgmental of those they see on the street
doing things they think are untoward. People will be stoned,
figuratively and literally, and the smart ones will learn to pay
more attention to their upbringings. The guiding mantra will be
"if you wouldn't want your Mom to see you do it, don't do it i
public." Eventually, people may lose interest in that long, hard look.

What will be really interesting is whether the government steps in
on behalf of the public to delay or derail this collective
self-examination. The official legal stance on this, which is what
reporters (and, unfortunately, the Paparazzo) lean on, is that
photos taken in the public domain are fair game - anything you can
see outside, you can take a picture of.

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