Monday, April 11, 2005

Google Maps, Complexity, Simplicity, Orwell, and Design

I tried the new Google Maps the other day, and was blown away by how cool the integration of Keyhole imagary is. Thanks to Metacool I can see what a slacker I was.

Apparently, the usefulness of this is already being exploited and pondered in depth. Is this an opening salvo of DIY big-brotherness? from Jeffery Veen's "Google is Watching":

"But privacy goes both ways, doesn't it? Ultimately Orwell was right: everything we do will be watched. But he was wrong about the government building it. We did it ourselves. Which means where Matt sees chemistry, I see environmental accountability. Where others see surveillance, I see corporate whistle-blowing. It reminds me of the Surfrider Foundation's project to get kayakers in the San Francisco Bay to cameraphone the bilge coming out out of container ships. What happens when thousands of grassroots activists can click-and-drag through the remote places in this country? Clearcut! Oil spill! You can't dump that there -- we're watching!"

By example, Mezzoblue is using it to demonstrate the real effects of clearcutting around his neighborhood. Wow.

Metacool riffs on the design implications:

"I'm beginning to believe that the emergence of design thinking in our society is somehow related to the rise of the Internet as an ubiquitous source of information, entertainment, and stimulation. Never before have we had ready access to so much complexity. Design thinking -- with its emphasis on empathy for humans, iterative problem solving via prototyping, and an entrepreneurial mindset -- is the best way I know of to work with that complexity."

Its also a good example of how simplicity and complexity (hmm, design and engineering?) are merely different methods of approaching the same data set. Simplicity, to me, is zooming out (literally in this case) until an issue simplifies itself through the change in resolution. Complexity is the opposite: zooming in until the myriad details so overwhelm the context that the problem and solution become abstract to the point of having no value. By looking at the God's eye view of a clearcut landscape, one can intuitively see that something's not well. This is the kind of revelation mounds of passionless data just can't provide.



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