A Life in Google Maps

Excerpt from this article:

Inside Google Maps, we still live together. It’s July 2012 here; my car is parked in the driveway. One of your ham radio antennae peeks over the roof. The trees are in full leaf, so I can’t see the windows; are the lights on? Am I inside? It’s overcast, but the sun seems high; maybe I’m walking the dog, but I don’t see us. Probably I’m at my desk. Possibly I am on the floor crying for reasons I don’t even understand. It is five months until I leave.

You’re at work. Inside Google Maps, it’s July 2008 at your lab. I can’t zoom in close enough to see your bike in the vestibule, but I know you’re there. It’s overcast here too, one mile and four years away; maybe they’re the same clouds. Maybe they never parted. We aren’t married yet, here at the lab, though we will be soon.

In truth, inside Google Maps it will never be “now” anywhere. The most trafficked streets of the most traversed cities might be re-sampled every year or two, but even there it is at best this afternoon, this morning, yesterday. More likely it’s last month, last year, two years ago. You can travel back in time, on these popular streets, rolling the clock back to the panoptic camera’s previous run—but you won’t see the time in between. At my first New York apartment, it is 2014, and 2013, and 2011, and 2009, and 2007 . . . but it is never 2012.