While I appreciate the emotional power of pictures and maps, I doubt this will be an effective means by which to generate a political response to the genocide in Darfur. Google Earth images of the crisis in Darfur have been available since October 2, 2006, and little has been done to keep people in Darfur safe. See the post at Ogle Earth. The Google Earth Blog has details about today’s developments.
This is an interesting test of technology used to influence the body politic. So too is the way Google Earth is being used to visually document climate change. The application of space-based Earth observation to the debate is covered by New Scientist; subscribers also have access to the article, Will Google Earth Help Save the Planet.
There is historical evidence satellite imaging may be useful in framing political issues; the famous picture of Earthrise on the Moon’s horizon is credited by some with entrenching the environmental movement. Can a collage of photos do the same for an audience now inured to space-based imagery?
Even if Google Maps does nothing to sway political opinion, the projects might be an example of a new type of monument which resides only in servers creating the internet’s backbone. It remains to be seen if this sort of experiment in sentimental expression will take off in other computer applications – Second Life, for example – and if malleable online experiences can convey the meaning we associate with physical testimonies’ of the past.
I wish I could say this is original speculation on my part, but I need to defer to novelist Tad Williams. His Otherland series explores the possibility of using virtual worlds to create memorials to the past – in that case, the extinguished culture of African bushmen. Williams must be experiencing deja-vu today.
(Hat tip to Ed Eckel, a Science/Engineering Librarian blogging at World of Engineering. The world needs more librarian blogs. It might also need a new category tag; I seem to be writing a lot about monuments.)
Follow-up: The Frontal Cortex has an interesting look at the psychology of people who ignore genocide while it is happening.