Google beams disaster tourists into tsunami aftermath
Street View before-and-after gallery erected
Google spy cars have been out snapping the wreckage from the Japanese tsunami, so everyone can see the damage a big wave can do and how long reconstruction is taking.
The dating of images isn't limited to those taken in Japan: every picture in Street View worldwide now has a month and year attached - finally ending the game of "when did they take that", which has filled so many bored afternoons in offices around the planet. But it's the images taken before and after the tsunami that prompted the update.
Disaster tourism used to mean travelling to unstable parts of the world to lament the suffering of mankind, but now we can all see just how unpleasant being hit with a big wave can be from the comfort of our own (still standing) homes.
This emotional self flagellation is supposed to make us feel more connected to those whose lives were really destroyed, or as Google puts it:
Seeing the street-level imagery of the affected areas puts the plight of these communities into perspective and ensures that the memories of the disaster remain relevant and tangible for future generations.
Google has even prepared a guided tour, called Memories for the Future, which allows the virtual tourist to flip between before and after images - in case wandering randomly through the ruins isn't enough.
The date tags now appended to all Street View images appear in the bottom left. Since they only show the month and year the photograph was taken, there's sill some wriggle room for a philanderer caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, just not as much as there used to be. ®
There's a fine line...
...between news reporting and disaster porn, and to be honest, most news corporations are so far into the disaster porn that they can no longer see the line. (and lets face it they have good reason to be: sensation, conjecture and drama attract a far greater audience than simply reporting facts)
Speaking from experience...
As a resident of New Orleans for the last twenty years, I have actually lived through a large-scale disaster and its aftermath (thankfully nowhere near as profound as the tsunami in Japan, but still quite bad). In the aftermath, most people here had an almost obsessive compulsion to make "outsiders" understand what we were going through. This has both emotional and practical aspects.
I remember taking multiple friends and relatives on aerial "disaster tours" via Google Maps. In fact, at one point Google upgraded the New Orleans satellite photos to higher resolution images that were taken before the storm. This had the unfortunate side-effect of making it look like everything was all better overnight. Local press excoriated Google for the move, and very quickly Google returned to the lower-resolution but more accurate post-Katrina images.
I suppose it's possible to look at accurate photos of a post-disaster community and see nothing but "disaster porn," but that might say more about the viewer than the image.
"Memories for the future"?
"...street-level imagery of the affected areas puts the plight of these communities into perspective and ensures that the memories of the disaster remain relevant and tangible for future generations."?
Well, if that's their story and they're sticking to it, fine.
Sounds like just more disaster porn to me.