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Monday, January 12, 2009
LOST ON GOOGLE MAPS
I meant to post here last night, but on a whim decided to look up an area I’m researching for my current novel. Wow! With Google Maps, I looked at it from the satellite view, zoomed up close, then took a tour through the neighborhood. There’s a little man you can drag on the screen over to the area you want and see things from the street view. Leaves in the gutter, stone walkways, who the neighbors are. You can do a 360 degree pan, and after a while I admit, I was a little dizzy.
A couple of things struck me about this form of research. It is a useful tool to visit places you’ve never been. You can see what landmarks, hospitals, bodies of water, and freeways are in the neighborhood. I was particularly interested in how hilly the area was for the street I’m researching, but couldn’t get a real feel for it. And for the time I spent, I could have driven over there since it’s in my locale. I could have taken pictures and notes myself, and had more useful material for the descriptions I need. On the other hand, if you are writing about a place four states away and need information quickly, this is definitely a great alternative to being there.
Because of the precise detail, it also made me realize that our homes and our identities are no longer our private domains. Not with satellite maps, the ability to find out addresses and phone numbers with a few clicks on the Internet, or a quick engine search to see if anything’s “out there” about a person.
For a writer, this has two sides. I want my name out there for recognition purposes. When my books become published, I want them to be found with a click or two (hopefully with a credit card purchase after the last click). But what if someone hates what I write? They. Know. Where. To. Find. Me.
This is not something I’m going to lose sleep over or which will haunt me until I have to be medicated for my paranoia. As a matter of fact, I will probably find myself on the virtual map again someday. One question is troubling, though. Whose car was that in my driveway???
Do you have any “pet” research methods? Do you snoop around neighborhoods virtually or do you prefer the old-fashioned get-in-the-car-and-take-a-road-trip method?