The documentation and organization of our world’s information requires a vast human-machine collaboration; it is as much a human effort of creating and recording as an algorithmic task of classifying, sorting, and presenting. Yet for the most part these efforts are hidden in the presentation of the world’s images. In the ubiquitous daylight hours of Google Earth, middle fingers are blurred and bad weather is smoothed over. In Google Image searches, results appear in a contextless grid that stretches to infinity. As a result, the process of searching for images both of and from the Earth is made to feel more magical and other-worldly than procedural or human.
Occasionally, however, the algorithms and humans driving this system will suddenly become visible. The photographer of an image is captured in the reflection of a mirror, for example, or a suburban neighborhood warps and buckles as its two-dimensional satellite image is ballooned into the third dimension. This collection highlights these surreal, bizarre, and often poetic moments.
Will Freudenheim is a student in Wesleyan University’s Science in Society Program where he studies the entanglements of new media, infrastructure, and geopolitics. He is also a composer and sound designer for film and digital media.
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