artist simon weckert has taken to the streets of berlin for his latest performance, ‘google maps hacks’. wheeling a handcart filled with 99 smartphones through the city, weckert generated a ‘virtual traffic jam’ in google maps, turning green streets red in the online navigational tool and conveying how digital technology can have a real impact on the physical world.
all images courtesy of simon weckert
the advent of google’s geo tools began in 2005 with maps and earth, followed by street view in 2007. they have since become enormously more technologically advanced. google’s virtual maps has little in common with traditional analogue maps. the most significant difference is that google’s maps are interactive – scrollable, searchable and zoomable. the service has fundamentally changed our understanding of what a map is, how we interact with maps, their technological limitations, and how they look aesthetically.
with new applications, such as airbnb, uber, or map-based food delivery-apps like deliveroo or foodora, google maps is making changes to the real urban environment via the housing market or mobility culture. all of these apps function via interfaces with google maps and create new forms of digital capitalism and commodification. without these maps, car sharing systems, new taxi apps, bike rental systems and online transport agency services such as uber would be unthinkable.
with its geo tools, google has created a platform that allows users and businesses to interact with maps in a novel way. with this in mind weckert questions the relationship between the art of enabling and techniques of supervision, control and regulation in google maps. by the simple gesture of his performance, the artist shows the power of google maps and how the online tool determines the actuality and perception of physical spaces.
project name: google maps hacks
artist: simon weckert
text: moritz ahlert
edited by: lynne myers | designboom