Why bother seeing the world for real?: Google Street View and the representation of a stigmatised neighbourhood.

Power, M. J., Neville, P., Devereux, E., Haynes, A., & Barnes, C.

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Power, M. J., Neville, P., Devereux, E., Haynes, A., & Barnes, C. (2013). ‘Why bother seeing the world for real?’: Google Street View and the representation of a stigmatised neighbourhood. New Media & Society, 15(7), 1022–1040. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444812465138

Google Street View , Ireland , Moyross , Neighborhood , New Media , Representation , Stigmatization , Urban Regeneration

We examine how an Irish stigmatised neighbourhood is represented by Google Street View. In spite of Google’s claims that Street View allows for ‘a virtual reflection of the real world to enable armchair exploration’ (McClendon, 2010). We show how it is directly implicated in the politics of representations. We focus on the manner in which Street View has contributed to the stigmatisation of a marginalised neighbourhood. Methodologically, we adopt a rhetorical/structuralist analysis of the images of Moyross present on Street View. While Google has said the omissions were ‘for operational reasons’, we argue that a wider social and ideological context may have influenced Google’s decision to exclude Moyross. We examine the opportunities available for contesting such representations, which have significance for the immediate and long-term future of the estate, given the necessity to attract businesses into Moyross as part of the ongoing economic aspect of the regeneration of this area.

Main finding
The proliferation of publicly available street-level imagery (such as Google Street View) provides users the ability to explore visual characteristics (at a particular moment in time) of neighborhoods around the world. This study explores the roll-out of Google Street View in a new city in Ireland, and documents how a failure to capture a specific low-income neighborhood and include it in the database of available images contributes to the continued stigmatization and marginalization of that neighborhood. Accordingly, the authors argue that the Google Street View representations of the neighborhood “further entrench public perceptions of it as a ‘no-go’ area” (p. 1033), and serve as an entry point to more critical analysis of the impacts of such technologies.

Description of method used in the article
A theoretical analysis of images and other research associated with a stigmatized Irish neighborhood of Limerick City called Moyross. A primary focus is placed on the initial omission of the neighborhood from Google Street View images.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

Digital Device Engagement
Theoretical (Delete me)
Physical types
Geographic locations