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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Nihilistic Gawker Stalker Maps Hits New Height in Post-Ennui

A pack of voyeurs gawking at celebs, but pretending not to give a shit.

Kind of like how your cat acts when he's not very hungry or cold.

A minor twister of controversy has dusted up in the blogosphere. Its humble origins appear to lie in some gentle street-level breezes known only to those who read blogs. Gawker Stalker (see this Mar. 13 entry) is a hypercaffeinated version of what people in cities have always done -- sharing celebrity sightings with pals. The sheer volume of sightings, and the organized manner in which they're reported, though, really does make it feel like the exercise has been escalated to the point of being some kind of stalking database.

The just-launched mashup that puts maps with these written accounts really does seem creepy. They also seem to have been working on forms of this misguided project for some time.

But it's all just data to the blog-reading faithful. As one commenter on Gothamist put it yesterday: "At least the map will give some chronological and geographical order to what used to be really disorganized." That reminds me of the time I was on the parole board, and this serial killer gave us a detailed map of where the bodies were buried, hoping to reduce his 38 concurrent life sentences down to 37. I sez at the time: "At least the map will give some chronological and geographical order to what used to be really disorganized." Then we high-fived!

To give equal time to the possible "pro-stalker-maps" arguments that may soon be coming to a blog near you: this is going to be far from the most intrusive type of mashup format you'll be seeing. Anytime you combine maps with other sensitive info, you could be accused of stirring up trouble. But the fact is, data that are "out there" really are out there. All you're doing is making it -- how does the phrase go? -- "organized and universally accessible?" In all seriousness, open-source maps do add an interesting dimension that makes the good and bad sides of "organized and universally accessible" info apparent. It seems like a bit of a new frontier. The mashup experts are going to have to delve into moral as well as technological issues.

Maybe you can do a lot of good by shedding light on reality (with a crime map, or a potholes map, or a map of where to get biodiesel fuel), but it's also common knowledge (to some) how to build a bomb, but that doesn't seem like you'd just be "passing along available information."

How close Denton et al. are coming to shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre is your call. But this critique certainly seems well-reasoned to me. Making SJP feel less safe as she roams the greatest city in the world? To what possible end? Envy? Self-aggrandizement? Hoping to be dragged away and institutionalized?

I do, however, agree that Kelly Ripa's skin looks funny... but my theory is this is not because she "wore no makeup and has jaundice." Rather, I believe she has some kind of permanent "makeup tan" base that reduces the need for heavy TV makeup on her tiny, shrunken head. I saw Ripa standing outside a theater last fall while I was at ad:tech, and pretended not to know who she was so I could walk by and get a real close look. Want a handy map of how to get from the Park Central Hotel to where Kelly was standing? Bah, who has the time.

I'm sure it's Gawker Editor Jessica Coen's fervent wish that someone will begin mapping her whereabouts so she can feel all celebb-y. Beware of fake "sightings" being used to prop up flagging stars' images, or to invent new ones. Maybe that's the next frontier.

Tell me Jessica, if Bonnie Fuller jumped off a bridge... hmm, never mind... this reference is too cryptic and time-wasting even for blog-land.

So who's the real victim here? Only your productivity. Which reminds me... I think they invented computers for something other than typing this dreck, and RSS for purposes higher than feeding it.

Damn Blogger's wonky today so I can't post the pic of Jessica giving you the finger.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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