21 December 2012

The End is Nigh, and Available in the App-Store for immediate download


Aesthetics of Survival ∕ Crisis ∕ Earth Junk

What better way to celebrate today’s Mayan apocalypse than to sit down with a glass of wine and hack out my last mortal words on the theme of that post-digicalyptical nightmare which is Apple’s much lambasted Maps App?

By the way, it’s a rather delicious Greek dessert wine I’m drinking, called Mavrodafni, which translates to the suitably wretched-sounding (for the purposes of this article at least) ‘black laurel leaf’, a name which calls to mind – after a glass or two, granted – the stiffening cadaver of Julius Caesar perhaps, or the lesser known use of bay-leaves as the active ingredient of killing jars; an insecticide favoured by entomologists*.

Any way up, there’s a good two hours or so until the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar ticks over to, marking, according to some, the End of Absolutely Everything. Or failing that, Bed-Time.

So, about 18 Winal ago – sticking, if I may, with Mayan calendar units – I bought myself an iPad, which, since the launch of iOS6 has included the company’s own mapping App, called, ingeniously, ‘Maps’, and ousted the much superior offering from Google. In the ensuing stink which followed the launch of Maps, including the firing of iOS boss Scott Forstall in October, the much publicised cases of Australian motorists sent to outback towns which don’t exist, and a Tumblr-blog dedicated to illustrating the uselessness of the App, people seemed to forget that included in Maps is an unsurpassed aesthetic orgy of extruded digital junk, begging for some serious semantic flogging. Seriously, amidst all of the bitching about misplaced Buckinghamshire hamlets, everybody forgot how awesome one part of Maps actually is. (Reminding me, too, of stand-up comedian Louis C.K.’s rant on the Conan O’Brien show in 2009.)

That part can be found by flipping over to the satellite view in Maps and zooming in on one of 40 major cities, entering what Apple call ‘Flyover’ mode. Slab however are happier calling it ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ mode for reasons which will become clear in the illustrated part of this article. In Flyover, cities have been rended as 3D models using the mapping software of a Swedish company called C3 Technologies. They based their algorithms on techniques originally developed by Saab to help better guide missiles to their targets. Which is ironic, because that is precicely how Flyover world looks: as if it had been Biblically rained apon by a forty–day deluge of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

Flyover world is devoid of people, and rests snuggly in Uncanny Valley, that weird place just short of indiscernible perfection where the simulated becomes too weird for comfort. In it, everything looks like Fukushima: fried, poisoned, uninhabitable. This incredible technological achievement fails massively in its intention (implicitness) because it seems that the closer to perfection you get, the more exponentially small the granular resolution of reality actually is.

* It is, if you will, a deeply clausal wine, contributing undoubtedly to the large number of subordinate clauses in this article, for which the author has not the faintest intention of apologising, and which, for the most part, should be seen as been penned in the spirit, if you will, of a line widely attributed to Hemmingway: “Write drunk; edit sober”. But since there is no tomorrow …