Accepted Paper:

Google Street View: the possibility of an archive  
Valentina Sarmiento Cruz

Paper short abstract:

This paper suggests repurposing Google Maps’ data, produced and systematized with a goal distinct from the researcher’s, as an archive. My piece, La eterna primavera, takes the amassed Street View imagery as space and time trackers––a useful template to mitigate in situ-research limitations.

Paper long abstract:

La eterna primavera (2019) is a short transmedia piece that focuses on three monuments to help surface the undeclared disputes over collective memory and the recent history of the city of Cuernavaca, Mexico. The project’s research and creative processes are deeply founded in a digital exploration of the data on Google Maps. More specifically, the images found through Google’s Street View (2007) and time machine (2014) features served as the primary source for locating infrastructural changes to the monuments and in their surroundings, both spatially and temporally. Thus, this paper suggests that Google Maps’ multiple representations, including those contributed by the users, offer an archive that is at once available for geographic, temporal, visual, and social analysis.

Although Cuernavaca has been listed among the most dangerous cities in the world in the past couple of decades, its violence was not, in this specific case, the main reason why the author turned to Google Maps’ data as opposed to conducting fieldwork. The project’s content wasn’t a cause for concern either, as it didn’t impair the safety of the people appearing in the piece or my own. Lastly, the piece was published in November of 2019, thus eluding the pandemic and the obstacles we now face when developing research projects. Instead, the “extraordinary setting” in which the project was developed was that of distance between the writer and the site, a condition that we may continue to face. Therefore, repurposing Google Maps’ data can prove a helpful template.

Panel P03
Existential crisis, exceptional fields: expanding fieldwork and storytelling in the face of violence and pandemic
  Session 1