Maddie Exton 

‘I Can’t Remember What It’s Like To Not Be Watched’ I Can’t Remember What It’s Like To Not Be Watched’ is a series of 16 images which are collected from countries whose governments actively disputed the practice of Google street mapping. In each screenshot a bystander is waving at the camera. Countries in alphabetical order: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, India, Japan, Lithuania, Poland, Switzerland, UK, and USA. 

The conceptual weight of the project is rooted in the irony and meta humour of the images being collected from countries whose governments actively disputed the practice of ‘street mapping’ and yet not only are they on Street View but actively waving at the camera. In many cases said countries government’s banned or delayed the actions of Google, but still haven’t been able to halt it entirely. To wave is to acknowledge and be aware that you are being watched and although there is an innocence in the action, it only makes us more aware of the sinister fact that observation is omnipotent in our society. The act of waving almost toys with the authority of Google – imagine if everyone featured on street view was waving at the camera. To further complicate matters, many of the images collected are from Google Spheres – the public’s contribution to Google Maps. The few blind spots Street View has are actually patched up by the offerings of the general public. From the perspective of a highly private person, there is a sense of betrayal from fellow locals who actively contribute to Google Spheres; even if Google can’t collect data on your home, your neighbors are happy to give it up. It seems impossible to avoid the ever-watchful eye of Google. The title is derived from a quote from Edward Snowden in Laura Poitras’ “Citizenfour” saying “I remember a time when the internet was nice”. 

At the age of 20, I genuinely cannot remember an age when Google Maps wasn’t there. I can’t remember what it’s like to not be watched. 

Words: Maddie Exton, Fine Art, @maddie.ea

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