September 04, 1998: Entanglement and experimentation; or, Cultural fascism and Google Street View
Gilge, Cheryl Renee
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Google Street View (GSV) presents the public realm as `fact', mapped and documented, and reconstituted online. In deleuzoguattarian terms, GSV is a unique assemblage, a bloc of space-time, with three distinct lines of force critical for its function. As a visual object, the photographic line both informs its mode of construction and its value as a wayfinding tool. As a mapping function, the systematic documentation of the built environment tied to an abstract representation gives it a range of use values within the social field. As social production, the particular political and economic environment in which Google is operating impacts not only its comprehensiveness as tool, but the company's mapping efforts have filled a particular niche and need as a result of an opening for the private sector. The unique assemblage of Street View emerges from its particular socio-political milieu, in which modes of thought and practices are latent within it, explicitly active or as virtual impulses. The dissertation is comprised of four larger sections. The first section examines the current social production of Google as a company and its development of Street View. The second section examines the historical impulses of photography and its value as both an objective index of the world and its creative potential. Within GSV, artists extend creative photographic practices as a subjective medium, while researchers use the same platform to produce knowledge. The third section examines the variegated history of mapping as influencing the diversity of Street View uses. Mapping has established territories and asserted power through demarcation, as well as produced knowledge from the abstraction of territory in graphical terms. The new environment of citizen participation creates unique tensions within this history, and the implications exfoliate in all directions. The final section examines the particular political-economic environment from which Google emerged. This intersection of the neoliberalism regime and the immanent production of Open Source offers a critical tension. Google is located at this nexus, drawing from the political economic conditions that provided an opening for the private sector, as well the minoritarian impulse of Open Source that sought to upend the capitalist model. In its zeal of making the world's information accessible, Google is overturning many socio-cultural and legal norms and conventions. This has serious consequences, of which Google is largely unconcerned. As a critical analysis, I examine the concept of a microfascism in relation to efforts and investments of individual desire, in order to sketch out a unique impulse within the Web 2.0 environment in which Google stands at the center. Its cultural cachet and the seductive efficiency it provides draw more individuals into the mix, enabling a disparate collection of investments to cohere within the overall milieu. Quite explicitly, I offer an assessment of the contemporary cultural condition as resonating with and moving towards cultural fascism. Google's `suicidal' line of overturning these norms in order to advance their single minded goal of indexing the worlds information resonates with some forms of fascism, in which citizens actively support and work to advance the larger goal. In the process, they gain a sense of responsibility and ownership in achieving that goal, and Google stands to control it all. As Deleuze says of the control society, there is no need to hope or fear, we just need new tools.
- Built environment