Université de Montréal

Alexandre Laurin is preparing a doctoral thesis in Université de Montréal’s Doctoral Program in Communication under professor Thierry Bardini’s supervision. He currently researches on the different modes of interactions humans have to digital (dis)connectivity. Laurin is a member of the SNS lab and the Radical Empiricism Workshop in Montreal.


Moving Still: On, Around and With Google Street View’s Representational Practices

In May of 2007, digital giant Google launched Google Street View, an online tool offering panoramic view of photographed streets as part of its interactive mapping systems Google Maps and Google Earth. Since then, Google captured images in 48 countries, expanding its coverage from most streets to some specific sites. Even if the platform has evolved and stabilized, it still progresses as some more countries are planned to be added in the upcoming years.

Google Street View, as a photographic-oriented geographical powerhouse, produced a specific mode of representing places whose mappings are heavily used as tools to mediate localities in unimaginable, yet limited, ways. My interpretation is that the representation it produces simultaneously denies space by surfacing it and denies time by crushing its coevalness. My goal is to describe and characterize what Google Street View is and how it functions as a complex sociotechnical ensemble, while understanding some of its global effects, as it is now (differentially) embedded in the world.

More specifically, I want to know if a blurring is occurring to the differences between the perceptions emerging in the bodily-lived copresence to the world and the abstract, yet mobile, interactive and potentially ubiquitous objectifying mode of reality Google Street View proposes. To further characterize human experiences articulated between movement and connection on, around and with Google Street View’s representational practices, I wish to draw on Ingold’s description of the environment as experienced in networks and meshworks.