An Eye from Above

It’s astounded me lately how the information we gain from internet tools changes our perception of the things around us, the relationships we forge, and the ways that we interact with the world. GeoEye is a service that has changed my view again. This satellite photo service — showing pictures of everyday things down to half-meter accuracy — renders familiar landmarks like the Washington Mall or unfamiliar landmarks like the skyline of Abu Dhabi in the comfort of your computer screen. It doesn’t seem that odd to be floating at 28,000 feet over the Mall, “seeing” the Inauguration of President Obama.

But satellite imagery is an apt metaphor for the increasingly granular and interconnected nature of the Internet. It’s no longer enough to see point to point (can I view a distant galaxy), but now important to be able to peer into someone’s life with half-meter accuracy simply by dialing an address on a browser. Google Street View already provides the ability to look at many places in the U.S.

So what does it mean to be able to imagine a place and go there and view it too? I think that there are a few things to be thankful for — among them the ability to have better real time directions, to see old places you once visited, and to be able to see places you’ve never seen — and a few darker ones too. It’s no longer accurate to assume that public life is private.

On the other hand, the very act of being on the internet, maintaining a status on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter presupposes that someone cares what you’re doing, or might be looking, or might be enlightened by your observations. So let’s hope that Geoeye and other services like it recognize that with great power comes great responsibility. In the meanwhile, smile! You’re on Satellite Candid Camera …

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