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The 'Anonymous Gods' Of Google Street View

A funny thing happens when Google Street View is unable to distinguish statues' faces from humans'.
September 23, 2014, 11:00pm
Images courtesy of artist

Whether she's wandering through Disneyland, Las Vegas, or the great temples of Asia through the Internet magic of Google Street View, Marion Balac is a world-class world traveller. In her travels, the illustrator, photographer, and web artist has found herself in search of the great anonymous statues of the digital world, a group of figures whose faces the algorithmically-powered mapping service has anthropomorphized and accidentally blurred out.


"By applying this bureacratic tool to figures of faith, plunging them into anonymity, we can really see the robot's point of view," Balac told The Creators Project. "It treats every human face it encounters as data, without exceptions, neglecting religious or scale principles." From the Luxor Hotel's Sphinx in Las Vegas to any of the world's countless Buddhas, a slew of objects have been mistaken by the blurring algorithm and modified to protect privacy.

This phenomenon reveals how robots see the world—humanity included. "The Google robot makes no distinction between a human face and its reproduction, but it still gives us the feeling that it recognizes us," she says. "When we get blurred, it's to protect our anonymity. Civil rights or religious beliefs dealt with from a robot's perspective—I find it fascinating." While the prospect of algorithmic robots reducing humanity to a series of computations and data points might be unsettling for some, at the end of the day, it's comforting to recognize that the all-encompassing Internet can give even Buddha the anonymity he deserves.

Wander through some of our favorite images from Anonymous Gods below:

To check out the whole photo set, along with Balac's other work, visit her website here.


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