Will Google Maps Destroy Public Space?

With the latest redesign of Maps, Google is personalizing the mapping experience to reflect the places we, and our friends, frequent. In doing so, will the technology giant eliminate serendipitous "entanglements" from the urban experience?
May 28, 2013, 12pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Lars Plougmann

"In the near future (Google says it will 'be rolling it out to more people in the coming days and weeks'), the maps we see will be dynamically generated and highly personalized, giving preferential treatment to the places frequented by our social networking friends, the places we mention in our emails, the sites we look up on the search engine," writes Evgeny Morozov. "Conversely, the places that we haven't encountered—or, at least, haven't yet expressed any interest in encountering—will be harder to find." 

"The problem with Google's vision is that it doesn't acknowledge the vital role that disorder, chaos, and novelty play in shaping the urban experience," he continues. "If Google has its way, our public space might soon look like the Californian suburbia that the company calls home: nice but isolated, sunny but relying on decrepit infrastructure, orderly but segregated by income."

Here's one idea for preserving surprise and serendipity in your urban explorations: turn off the smartphone. 

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Published on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 in Slate
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