I’ve moved three times in my life. Four different houses in the span of seven years. I found myself good at starting over, but I never forgot the place. I could vividly remember bay windows in one house and the yellow entryway of another, the way the front yard of the third had these two huge trees that shaded the front yard, and the way the fourth was in a different state, 515 miles away.
Throughout the years, I’ve found it a way to reminisce by looking back at the three houses that are uneasily accessible to me on a daily, or even yearly basis. I use Google Earth. It may seem creepy, and it most definitely is, but my childhood, the friends I made in those locals, the experiences I gained, is preserved in my memories of those houses.
It was upsetting, the first house I ever lived in was on a road that Google Earth didn’t originally have street view access on while the other two did. That was the house I was carried through the door in a carseat as a baby. The first time I ever ‘came home.’ That was the house I learned to ride a bike at, the house I last saw my Gradma and Grampa at. That house, a simple structure, was home to my memories. It’s certainly trivial when I consider the fact that I throw out yearbooks from middle school, high school awards, and even struggle to find a receipt for something I bought just this morning.
I don’t preserve a lot, personally. I declutter my house, I declutter myself. Yet, just today, when I searched for my first house on Google Earth, I found my first house had street view access. I cried as I looked at the house. No shame in admitting that. The house at which I learned, despite the fact that I was six, to drive a stick shift. I could see the very driveway I’d made faux movies in with my brother, the same street I’d seen everyday for my entire life.
There was something that occurred to me though: this was new. Someone had to go out and gather data and pictures and create the algorithms that helped me to see this sight. Not only that, but I could interact with the image. I could zoom in and out. I could travel up and down the street I once glided swiftly by on while riding my bike. I could even see that the neighbors had torn down their pool when I swirled around 180 degrees.
Someone built this, coded all of the information, and enabled this system to ‘communicate’ with me as I typed in my old address and sat for a moment with fingers crossed before the image pulled up. I interacted with software, and hadn’t actually thought about the consequences until recently.
I see ads for places in New Jersey, a state in which I no longer live. My Pandora station thinks I still go to the HealthQuest that’s only a brief eight-hour car ride away from my current home. This is a result of my searching for things in New Jersey, of my looking up my houses and exploring my childhood digitally.
Not only did I interact with the system. The system interacted with me. It’s uncomfortable, knowing that there’s just this data floating around about my searches and my home addresses. It’s also oddly reassuring that I’m able to see the places I know so well. Duality and plurality make situations hard to comprehend, but also add color to life.