Meet Me Where You Are
Through Google Maps Street Views, this book illustrates the parallel nature of our digital and physical worlds as enabled by technology. Once moments are captured online, they don't really decay or disappear, even if the version in real life already has. Whether in the form of photos, comments, or entire profiles, we can continue to revisit them at any point in time and see them exactly as they were in the moment of creation. In this case, for as long as Google Maps is up and running, I can see my own house as it existed across six different points in time. Despite there being only one real location, I can flip through these digital ones in any order I wish. Each page of the book is a spread of one Google Street View. Holes in the pages allow viewers to see every Street View simultaneously from any other Street View spread. The result is an analogue representation of a location that really only exists digitally.
The book's concept began from the phenomenon of people discovering their late loved ones on Google Maps Street View. Many found the moment to be bittersweet: it felt like one last surprise visit, and they found comfort in knowing their loved one would be preserved in their daily routine forever. Maybe it's a bit dystopian, but one thing's for sure: while Google Maps was designed to be as accurate to the real world as possible, this is one of those cases where people might actually prefer it not to be. In this way, the digital world can become a parallel reality where we don't have to face the mortality of the things we love.
I myself have never come across someone I know on Street View. But there are places that have changed with me, namely the house I lived in for 20 years (and I'm in my early twenties). Going through Google Maps, I could see there were six available Street Views. Through them, I could see years of my childhood: my magnolia tree becoming taller than me, my parent's landscaping coming to life, and my bicycles on the porch changing model every time I grew a bit taller.
The cover page of Meet Me Where You Are has also been sourced from digital versions of real locations. To gather these, I took a digital walk along the streets of Toronto. Some of these Street Views haven't been updated since 2019. Following the pandemic, are they still there, or is this yet another digital memory?
© Benya Sutyanyong 2022