99 smartphones are transported in a handcart to generate a virtual traffic jam in Google Maps. Through this, it was possible to turn a green street red which had an impact in the physical world by navigating cars on another route to avoid being stuck in traffic.
This hack happened last year. Artist Simon Weckert has been waiting until now to publish it, just before the 15th birthday of Google Maps.
Here, Weckert explains his work:
Google will properly filter such kind of events in the future but the hack shows us, what is possible with this technology and how much we rely on data.
Data is always translated into what the program assumes is happening. The images, lists, graphs, and maps that represent this data are all interpretations, and there is no such thing as neutral data.
Data is always collected for a specific purpose, by a combination of people, technology, money, commerce, and government.
In that sense, Maps are as much a reality of the world in a particular codified form, that also has it’s own reality as an object with a materiality, a temporality and as a thing with a meaning that is as evident as the visceral reality of the world itself.
Maps represent knowledge & space, shown from a bird’s eye view. They visualize the invisible by radically homogenizing something that is not homogenous by a medium consisting of line, point and surface.
Maps have the potential as an instrument of power for some intentions. They substitute political and military power in a way that represents the state borders between territories and they can repeat, legitimate and construct the differences of classes and social self-understandings.
In this process it is pointing out the fact that we are highly focused on the data and tend to see it as objective, unambiguous and interpretation free. In doing so, a blindness arises against the processes that data generates and the assumption that numbers speak for themselves.
Not only the collection of data provides an interpretative scope, but also computing processes allows further interpretations. Thus data are viewed as the world itself, forgetting that the numbers are only representing a model of the world.
The map is not the territory ….. but another version of reality. (Korzybski 1933)