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Artist tricks Google Maps into thinking there’s a traffic jam with 99 smart phones

Another glitch in the matrix is upon us, with Berlin-based artist Simon Weckert causing mayhem with a viral traffic diversion via Google maps and a small red wagon.

So, what’s in the wagon? Dirt for mud pies? An assortment of plastic toys? E.T? No. It was filled with 99 second-hand smartphones.

Simon Weckert
Image: Simon Weckert

In honour of Google Maps’ 15th birthday, artist Simon Weckert has published a study involving 99 smartphones and a little red wagon.

Weckert towed his wagon of devices up and down a street, mainly at random, to create indications in Google Maps that traffic had increased considerably. In reality, there were no cars, only an empty street with this one man and his red cart. On the app, green streets turned red, causing cars to navigate to another route and avoid being stuck in traffic.

This is an artist whose aim is to deconstruct the technological systems we live by, unpack the “blind trust” we have in tech companies and alter perspectives on the objectivity of data. He says, “data is viewed as the world itself, forgetting that the numbers are only representing a model of the world.”

Swathed in anonymity, Weckert focuses on generative design and physical computing and unpacking the obligations attached to the privilege of living within Western civilisation. He argues against the neutrality of maps, in both their creation or their interpretation.

In a statement, Google said “We appreciate seeing creative uses of Google Maps like this as it helps us make maps work better over time,” adding, “whether it be via car or cart or camel.” All rise for the imminent camel stampede.