TC Sidewalks v. Google StreetView

Occasionally TC Sidewalks basks in limelight, as for a split second dozens of people around the sub-region click a link, fix briefly their attention, and give this webpage a half-hearted glance. And sometimes they share their conclusions with the world.

For example, the other day a Mnspeak.com commenter had this to say:

who needs the TC sidewalks blog now that we have google street view?

»» Submitted by »»» Kal at 8:31 AM on February 13

At first I laughed defensively. But then I thought, good question!

Like everyone else, I am blown away by Google's StreetView. It's amazin'! It's awesome! You can find every house you ever lived in, and see what what the world looked like on some random day during the summer of '06. It's like a giant 3-D photograph, like someone stopped time, like a little snowglobe real life world on the internets. (I've noticed that you can even see, from time to time, that cars following the Google camera car stay in the photo, tailgating, or stuck in traffic. In that case, the StreetView is a voyeuristic flipbook . . . if only you could zoom in far enough to see the increasing bewilderment on the faces of the other drivers as they notice the GoogleCar.)

So Google StreetView is good. But that doesn't mean, as some have suggested, that StreetView has rendered obsolete all sidewalk blogs, and Twin City Sidewalks in particular.

On the contrary, now more than ever, we need sidewalk blogs.

For example, take a look at the Google StreetView of major Twin Cities' landmark, Chino Latino:

[The glittering facade of an empty, mid-day Chino Latino, basking in the warm summer sunshine.]

I ask you: Does this capture the unquenchable thirst that is Chino Latino? Does this image do justice to the very palpable energy flowing from the place? Is this any replacement for that special feeling you get when, walking past the open windows of Chino Latino you turn and stare dumbly, torn between envy and disdain for the amount of sheer bachannalian oblivion that flows from underneath its unmarked facade, flooding out onto the street and forming an almost gelatinous social substance that explodes out onto Hennepin Avenue and leaves you trapped like a marshmallow in jello salad?

No, it does not.

Alas, Google StreetView is an auto-centric view of the world. It shows you the view from the driver's seat, it allows you to roll down the window of life and peer through the stoplights, traffic cones, the sides of parked cars. The sidewalk is different. And frankly, the world looks much better from the sidewalk.

It just occurred to me that it would be nice if Google StreetView contained some notion of time . . . I am imagining a virtual tourist who, looking at StreetView, believes that Minnesota is a land of eternal summer.

On the contrary: Is there any way to capture online the bleakest qualities of winter? The squeaky sound of snow underfoot on the coldest day? The thunk of a dead car battery? The way that sludgecrust freezes? The feel of numb cheek or frozen nostril?

That said, if they come out with a product called Google SidewalkView, then my work here is done. I'll call it quits.

[The icy slushy mucky salty crusty dirty dead grey black bleak brittle grubground.]


Ed Kohler said...

Keep cranking out the great photos!

justacoolcat said...

I actually thought about that comment later in the day. My conclusion; the two are nothing alike. It's like comparing apples and oranges.

You offer local pics with some nicely worded experience.

Street View is interesting and a useful addition to directions, but it's purely mechanics.

If I've learned anything from sci-fi it's that humanity will always prevail.

Ryan said...

yeah keep it up dude. the idea of google sidewalk view sends shivers down my spine. imagine all the google segways that such a feature would require

Stephen Gross said...

I ran into this very problem recently. I've been wanting to learn more about the Warehouse District (er, North Loop). I had heard it was a lively place with a lot of pedestrians. So I looked on streetview, and it looks REALLY dead all over. Quite a discrepancy, eh?


Anonymous said...

"I am imagining a virtual tourist who, looking at StreetView, believes that Minnesota is a land of eternal summer."

Really? You really think someone, after viewing streetview, would forget the common held notion that it is -30 and perpetually snowing all year in Minnesota?

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Well haha I guess everyone can made mistakes and this prove it again.
Thanks, nice views.