What Happens When You Mash Up Instagram and Google Street View?

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Google's Street View has become the canonical view of many places on Earth. Anyone with an Internet connection, anywhere in the world, can dial up a visual for billions of addresses. The Street View is a genre with universalizing tendencies. Every street becomes like every other street. 


But what Google delivers in breadth, it loses in depth. The nature of the car camera technology means that all we see are exteriors passed by. Faces are blurred. We don't really see people living their lives, so much as the backdrop against which they do so.

Which is what makes The Beat, a new project from the Rutgers Social Media Information Lab, so interesting. It mashes up geolocated, hashtagged Instagram photos with the Google Street View locations from which they were posed. In doing so, it provides the human foreground for these locations. 

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People focus on the most interesting things, on food, on each other, on the sky. Google Street View does not. The other thing we get with Instagram is time: events, sunsets, Thanksgiving dinners, parades.

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Here are a few of my favorites. Though, like with the Instagram mashup This Is Now, The Beat is best experienced yourself, letting the juxtapositions float by.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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