Social street viewYesterday I introduced my mom and her childhood friend (both now in their fifties) to Google Street View. They proceeded to spend more than an hour tracking up and down their old street in Portland, talking about each neighbor in turn ("Do remember the Jones boys? They used to knock on our door and ask for cookies") and gawking at new construction. They would have peered in the windows, if the camera had had high enough resolution. As it was, they kept trying to zoom through hedges. They forced me to "drive" the arrows for about five minutes, but quickly weaned themselves and were only thwarted by the occasional slow network glitch.
I've now seen this phenomenon of Street View being used socially several times, mostly with friends' parents. Its ostensible purpose is to help people find landmarks, but people seem to love to use it in groups to reminisce or show off neighborhoods that are meaningful to them. I've used it to get a feel for a neighborhood I'm considering moving to and others are collecting bloopers (seeming burglaries, people falling off bikes, etc.). A massive collective action art project/easter egg may be appearing in a beloved Pittsburgh alley soon. I really like seeing how people appropriate technology for unexpected social uses, which is probably why I research it for a living.