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Via a handful of smartphones, German artist Simon Weckert was able to fool Google and create a traffic jam that didn’t exist. Next stop, die welt!
German artist Simon Weckert (whose work is “related to code and electronics under the reflection on current social aspects”), wonderfully strolled the line between performance art and pain in the collective Gesäß this week by creating a virtual traffic jam on the streets of Berlin. In the real world, Weckert pulled a red wagon filled with smartphones. So far, so Berliner. However, over on Google maps, all was not well.
Due to Simon’s 99 smartphones, Google turned the streets from green to red, indicating a rather hectic jam. In the words of Weckert, “…through this activity, it is possible to turn a green street red which has an impact on the physical world by navigating cars on another route to avoid being stuck in traffic.”
While Weckert performed this hack to see if he could change traffic patterns, he stated that this experiment is part of a much larger issue:
With its Geo Tools, Google has created a platform that allows users and businesses to interact with maps in a novel way. This means that questions relating to power in the discourse of cartography have to be reformulated. But what is the relationship between the art of enabling and techniques of supervision, control and regulation in Google’s maps? Do these maps function as dispositive nets that determine the behaviour, opinions and images of living beings, exercising power and controlling knowledge?
So, is it art? I’m not entirely sure. It seems dangerously close to pulling a fire alarm in a school, or pressing all the buttons on an elevator. We’re taking it to the system, man, but effecting it in a completely safe way.
What would be interesting, is an army of Weckerts. Many smartphones in many wagons. If they can fool Google, and thusly, the city, what it would enable? Anarchy? Violence? Pedestrians? The mind reels.