Why was I not informed?
Suddenly, virtually every last corner of the UK is covered by Google Street View.
Until last week, it only came up as far as the road next to ours. This was disappointing in the sense that our road wasn’t interesting enuff for Google’s snoopmobile, but good in the sense that we had time to prepare.
But now it seems the wretched car passed by after all. Sometime last summer, judging from the appearance of Byrne Towers which, by the way, looks altogether smaller in GSV (pictured) than it is in reality (below).
This is incredibly irritating. The back garden is fully visible; I never sufficient warning to put up any signs on the lawn with skull and crossbones and the legend DANGER! LANDMINES! to deter burglars. Nor did we have the chance to hide the Skoda and hire a Bentley for the day to park in the drive instead. The convincing-looking plywood extension to the house was never built, and the skanky old garage never got disguised as a granny flat. One has to consider this stuff if you’re ever putting the place on the market.
There are serious privacy concerns, of course. But from where I sit, the most annoying thing is the way in which a stupendously rich supra-national company can photograph almost every road, every home in the land, whereas reporters and press photographers are now routinely harassed by police and rentacops for going about their perfectly legal business and taking pictures in the streets.
The other concern is aesthetic, though. Me, I love exploring urban places, looking for oddities and secrets and eccentric touches in the man-made environment. Nothing beats discovering interesting things in ordinary places, and teasing the human stories out of stone and brickwork.
There are two ways to do this; one is on foot (obviously) because it keeps you on a human scale, and the other is from the top deck of a bus, because you can see more downwards and because on foot you never look upwards often enough.
The problem with Street View is that it makes everything dull. Everywhere looks the same because everything has been seen the same way by a machine.
(Often on cloudy day, too – watch out for the first complaint from disappointed vendor claiming their home looks less attractive because GSV didn’t catch it at its best in sunshine. It’ll probably be in the Daily Mail.)
Technically it’s a marvellous thing, but ultimately reduces the world to a flat monotone which has filleted out much of the colour, a lot of the quirk and all the life from the urban landscape. The long-anticipated death of real life has been greatly exaggerated.
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