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As a digital ghost town, the outdated Yelp pages for Paradise (as seen online) are the equivalent of boarded-up windows in abandoned storefronts with the lights left on. What makes looking at the former version of Paradise online feel transgressive (voyeuristic or recreational) is the fact that it hasn’t been properly updated to reflect its current status. Roland Barthes explains in Mythologies that images which shock are horrifying because we are electively looking at them from a safe distance, looking outward from “inside our freedom.” Street View, of course, is not an “interior view,” yet the images of fire-damaged and gutted abodes feels wholly invasive — semi-permanent and digital fodder for desk-bound looky-loos, “outside” and “in public” and therefore invaded by our view. A ghost town hangs onto traces of life for a distanced but recreational experience, but images of ruins feel more akin to incidental snapshots; Street View and the Cal Fire images let us look with nose pressed to the screen as private voyeurs.

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