What am I doing on a bench in Italy on Google Street View

I will grant that this screenshot from Google Street View of me (seated in the center of the image — click to enlarge, though that won’t help much) on a bench in Reggio-Emilia, Italy is so distant and pixelated that only a mother would recognize it but what it shows me doing is writing in my journal about the Google car that was passing in front of me.  It was 20 October 2010 and I had just eaten my usual dark chocolate and licorice gelato from Gelateria Romana, which is located behind the long building on the left, and was savoring the afternoon sun on Piazza Roversi on a crisp autumn day.  The white tote bag over my shoulder (below) is from the lovely Edwardian bookstore Daunt Books in London, which I carry everywhere, and the journal — somewhat more visible in the alternate view, also below — is stitch-bound and micro French-ruled from Clairefontaine.  I wrote that day:

I’ve seen the Google car several times today with its signature four-way camera mounted on the roof to capture the endless streetscapes that have made Street View such a powerful addition to their maps function.  Just as Americans are comically touchy about abortion and sexual prurience, Europeans are perpetually tweaky about privacy issues so there have been a number of legal battles about the Google car, especially in Germany, and lots of civil disobedience in the forms of fingers given and trousers dropped.  Software obscure faces and text so this isn’t much of a protest and I did nothing of the sort when it passed me on via Campo Marzio and again as I sat in the sunshine on Piazza Roversi at the start of Corso Garibaldi.

Google Street Views are continuous images assembled from multiple passes so if you ‘stroll’ down Piazza Roversi you’ll see that for most of the views the bench is empty save for a young African guy, then a city bus appears out of nowhere, then I appear with a woman seated to my left.  On the via Campo Marzio views, I appear as a silhouette of a pedestrian on the narrow sidewalk — too distant for even my mother to be sure it’s me.

Click here for other things Google is hiding on its maps — like Israeli chemical weapons plants, or whatever that is under the gray rectangle on this satellite image.

Or click here for some of my photographs of Reggio-Emilia and other places in Italy.


Leave a Reply