To anyone who has driven during rush hour, Google Maps feels like a godsend. It can see a traffic jam coming 20 miles away and route you around it. But of course, Google doesn't actually see the traffic jam. It sees the GPS coordinates of maybe a few dozen phones sitting in close proximity on the highway, moving slowly. And from that, it interprets a slowdown.
It's a small but important distinction between data and reality explored by Simon Weckert in his new performative art piece, Google Maps Hacks. In it, he drags a red wagon around Berlin, filled to the brim with smartphones. And as he goes, you can see a red line appear on the map. He's a one-man traffic jam, exploiting the simplest hole in Google's data collection process.