Back in April, the city of Bergen gave Google high resolution aeroplane photos of the Bergen region – until this week, you see, Google Earth’s resolution for Bergen was depressing. At the closest clear zoom, my half hour walk to work showed up as shorter than my little finger. (Mind you, bergenskart.no has excellent resolution and address search and historical maps and so on – but not such a great interface.) Yesterday, Koenraad and Victoria showed us how you can practically count the leaves on the tree outside our office! Well. Nearly. Here’s a kmz file that you can download and launch to open Google Earth (if you’ve installed it) to see my office building, hi-res. Oh, the joy.

Imperialism used to be military and punitive (soldiers and convicts), then it was cultural and commercial (MacDonalds, Coca Cola and Hollywood). Now it’s techno-cultural, an ostensibly global community that partially excludes most of the world, constantly reminding us of our status as peripheral. Sometimes the exclusion is due to legal issues and over-protective copyright legislation – iTunes Norway sells fewer titles than the US version and Amazon won’t let non-US citizens buy videos online. I can’t legally watch the same television as a fellow global citizen sitting in the US, though that fellow global citizen (or anyone with a US billing address) can watch it on television, on the web, or download it. Sometimes the exclusion is to linguistic: Google News sort of tries to do global news, but of course really only does English language news. Versions of these services in other languages tend not to work very well and clearly have less resources put into them. Some are geographic: it simply costs more to provide equally good map coverage of all the world. So Flickr Maps works great for the US, but the resolution for say, Bergen Norway or Perth Australia is so pathetic that it’s all but useless.

It gets quite tiring. Thus the celebration when Google Earth suddenly becomes useable for Bergen.

1 Comment

  1. Daniel Cunliffe

    Google also does some other ‘nasty’ things with respect to languages. Consider the various language skins that the main Google search provides – over 100. Now ask the question, how many of these actually have specific algorithms tailored to search using the gamammar of the language of the skin? OK, I don’t actually know, but I have a colleague who is doing some work on the Welsh version and it appears not to be doing some very obvious Welsh language things which result in it missing relevent pages. The problem with this is that I suspect people who use the Welsh skin expect the search to be using Welsh grammar when it actually appears to be using English (well not Welsh in any case).

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