Inspired in part by the great geography game GeoGuessr, I spent some time recently in Google Maps, finding the edges of their Street View image coverage. I’ve always been drawn to the end of the road, to the edges of where one might be allowed to travel, whether blocked by geographic features, international borders, or simply the lack of any further road. Gathered below is a virtual visit to a few of these road ends around the world — borders, shorelines, dead ends and overlooks from New Zealand to Svalbard, from Alaska to South Africa.
The institutions that call for radical transparency very rarely exhibit it themselves. Facebook will always know more about you than you will know about it. Google will always be the only one to know how all your emails coalesce into a more meaningful picture. No one knew PRISM existed until a few weeks ago. We might know that we’re having portraits painted of us, but we will never have the canvas turned back toward us. And, if these painters did turn their easels around, I’m not sure which would be more terrifying to see: a distorted, monstrous version of myself, and say “that’s not me,” or myself mirrored back, reconstituted—the exhaust fumes of my day-to-day life somehow made solid.
It would be a long while because, quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and never love anyone quite that way again. I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later—because I did not belong there, did not come from there—but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, and day, any month.
We often use technology to save time, but increasingly, it either takes the saved time along with it, or makes the saved time less present, intimate and rich. I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts. It’s not an either/or — being “anti-technology” is perhaps the only thing more foolish than being unquestioningly “pro-technology” — but a question of balance that our lives hang upon.
We need our online urban planners to strike a balance between relevance and serendipity, between the comfort of seeing friends and the exhilaration of meeting strangers, between cozy niches and wide open spaces.
Because the faculty of sight is continuous, because visual categories (red, yellow, dark, thick, thin) remain constant, and because so many things appear to remain in place, one tends to forget that the visual is always the result of an unrepeatable, momentary encounter. Appearances, at any given moment, are a construction emerging from the debris of everything which has previously appeared.