Four years ago Google Maps implemented a new feature to display three-dimensionally rendered shadows of buildings and other large structures. The grayscale marks change angle and size depending on the time of day, allowing one to use the digitized landscape to accurately predict where they might find a patch of sun or shade in the real world. These data-driven shadows hover around their forms like digital ghosts, hugged tightly to their angles much like our own data morphs with our bodies as they move through space. Smart phones algorithmically learn as we navigate, photograph, and speak, understanding more about us and our surroundings with every environmental interaction. The digitized landscape expands with each picture we hashtag, each review we leave for a geological site, and each time a Google street car drives past a previously unglimpsed marker. We stomp on a weed to get closer to a lily for Instagram, mutating the natural environment in lieu of its digital exploration. Even when we are at our most delicate, even as we attempt to hover softly, we still end up leaving a permanent and irreversible impression.
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