Informit article: Abstraction and production in google maps: The reorganisation of subjectivity, materiality and labour

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Maps can be seen as a potent symbol and the technological manifestation of the abstraction process fundamental to human practice. Cartographic abstraction grants an organising power to the way we look at the world, and hence map-makers and the institutions they serve have often worked to intensify this abstraction. Google Maps goes a step further. In addition to offering an abstracted view from above, the very materiality of the map is itself abstract. Its production and functioning necessarily involves a vast ensemble of microchips, semiconductors and all the components that make up the computing machines, which in turn run multiple layers of software, using standardised protocols to bridge world-spanning networks composed of transoceanic fibreoptic cables and military satellites. These examples are all material manifestations of the abstracting processes that extend the possibilities of social power. It is very important to critique this power, as Google Maps is used by around two billion people each month, hence the apparatus affects the social practice of a vast number of people unevenly spread around the world.

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