Stereographic Google and North Korea

Have you seen this? One of the better Google Maps hacks I've ever seen. Stereographic photography never really took off beyond the covers of dodgy punk albums and the occasional skate video. Now you can summon up bespoke novelty photographs of your own house for an iPhone background or living room conversation piece. More than anything, it's testament to the colossal advances of Google's mapping service since it's tentative birth all those many moons ago.

Stereographic google

All this fashionable sterography shines a stark contrast in the quality and depth of the data available in a city like London on say a city like Pyongyang, where Google comes up a little bit short on the mapping data front. North Korea's retentiveness of its data security and extreme privacy make it an island of the unknown in an era of paramount search-ability. Google only has access to geographic information which leaves a sea of off-white punctuated with man-made polygons of waters and jagged-edged inclines and canals, adorning the landscape with a look even more alien than it often sounds.
Pyongyang :(

China, though not as super-isolationist as North Korea, still holds qualms about letting Google access its physical geographic data which results in Baidu (China’s most popular search engine) holding the monopoly on digital mapping. (Not that Google weren't invited, they just refused to comply with the censorship laws.) So, Baidu made a beautiful Sim City-esque 3d map of Beijing, arguably better than anything Google has come up with on the 3d mapping front.

Perhaps the residents of Pyongyang have some equally incredible mapping visualisation software? No, there's only a fraction of the web available to the limited number of government officials with access to the Internet. There's only about 100,000 telephones in Pyongyang as well.

My fascination with North Korea is parallel to my love of artifacts of extinct power; everything from the architecture of the Soviet Union to branded Enron stationary. North Korea presents a contemporary hidden treasure, an unknown empire where rumours emanate akin to descriptions of deep Africa during the Age of Exploration, two-headed serpents and cannibals a-plenty.

So, probably not in actual response to the rumours of serpents, North Korea's Foreign Language Publishing House have released a guide to Pyongyang entitled Pyongyang Architectural and Cultural Guide: A potent demonstration of the inextricable link between state-power structure and architecture. In a twist, the book is released in the west with a second volume of critical studies, essays and comment on Pyongyang from critic Phillip Meuser where apparently the 'real meat' of the book is. At a handy £30, it's no where near breaking the cliche of pricey architecture guides but I'm looking forward to it anyway.