As sophisticated as it is, Google Maps is fundamentally the same type of thing cartographers have been making for centuries. It’s a flat, scaled representation of our planet. That means decisions have been made about what to show and what to leave out. At any given level of zoom, you can see only a certain subset of streets, of cities, of tributaries or topography. Even today, some streets are missing or mislaid. It feels omniscient, but its omniscience is made by humans, for humans.
Google Street View is something entirely different: a photographic document of world. It’s more objective and indelible than even the most accurate satellite-aided map. And that’s a bit unsettling. When every acre on Earth is catalogued for us to see, where will all the mysteries hide?
Thankfully, Google’s nine-eyed robot cameras and their attendant code aren’t quite omniscient either. And as Emilio Vavarella shows us in his screenshots, the places where that system breaks down have a mystery all their own.