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Google Maps + Flickr = great

June 08, 2005 ・ Blog

I love maps. And I really love this – Google Maps annotated with Flickr photographs taken at those locations. That’s where we live – there are even pictures taken at the pub down the road.

I generally hesitate at the prospect of “convergence”, because mixing ideas together often ends up in compromising them. But sometimes mixing creates a kind of technological poetry, like the joining of a mobile phone with a camera. And this joining of Google Maps and Flickr is one of those poetic moments.

It’s especially lovely to see something like this working because last year I wrote an article for icon about all this sort of thing: “locative media”. Locative media is software applications that are based around them “knowing” their location. There are games like Pac Manhattan (course, there’s a new version in Singapore now), art projects that involve plotting movements around cities and telling stories by playing voice recordings triggered by the listener’s location in a Bristol square.

One of the main projects I looked at was Urban Tapestries, in which a number of people were given smart phones loaded with special maps on which they could plot special routes through an area of central London. They could annotate points on the routes with descriptions and photos of the locations to tell stories about them. The other users could then access them.

This Flickr/Google Maps thing is simpler (conceptually and technologically) than Urban Tapestries but all the more robust for it. I don’t know how long it has been going, but it is interesting to see how it develops.