Hacking Google Maps
2020-12-29, 20:00–20:40, ChaosZone TV Stream

"99 second hand smartphones are transported in a handcart to generate virtual traffic jam in Google Maps. Through this activity, it is possible to turn a green street red which has an impact in the physical world by navigating cars on another route to avoid being stuck in traffic." #googlemapshacks

The lecture discusses the development of maps and their function within society. It links the genesis of early maps with the current development of urban apps and the success of Google Maps. Thus it questions the practice of mapping and gives an overview over the critical perspectives of today’s mapping.


How the impact of digitalization shapes urban transformation is highly contested. A frequent concern voiced by critics is the reliance of so-called smart cities on ›big data‹, collected, monitored, and geo-localized by a ›cocoon of ubiquitous computing‹ (Halpern). While collectable and marketable data is prioritized, the actual realities of urban populations are being ignored and compromised. Commercialized smart city approaches foster the fragmentation of urban fabrics instead of ›bringing the world closer together‹ (Zuckerberg). ›Spatial software‹ (Keller Easterling) are actively shaping urban transformation processes but also functioning as new gateways for private corporations to dominate cities.
The focus of this lecture is on the role of urban actors as producer, consumer, prosumer and hacker in our emerging ›surveillance capitalism‹ (Zuboff). Simon Weckert & Moritz Ahlert want to reflect the means, the significance, and the potentials of ›civic hackers‹ (Townsend) operating today’s and tomorrow’s smart cities dominated by the logic of ›platform urbanism‹ (Barns).
The starting point of this endeavor is Simon Weckert’s performance "Google Maps Hacks" In February 2020 Weckert, a Berlin-based artist, got global news coverage for the video of his performance in Berlin, it went viral (over 3 Mio. clicks on Youtube). To contextualize his performance, he referenced an essay written by Moritz Ahlert, who recently finished his PhD about ›Google Maps-Urbanism‹.
For this lecture the speakers would like to investigate the role of hacking the digital urban infrastructure from their complementary artistic and scientific perspectives, using their work as a basis and including contemporary works of other artists, researcher and activists.

Moritz Ahlert is researcher and artist based in Berlin. He studied architecture in Hannover and the Berlin University of the Arts. In his work he explores the interface between actor-based urban design, mapping and digitalization of cities. He is the author of several publications and he exhibited internationally. From 2015-2017 he was part of a three year graduate program, to research the ›Aesthetics of the Virtual‹ at HFBK Hamburg and was working towards a PhD in Art. He defended his dissertation last year. Since 2017 he is a researcher and lecturer at the Habitat Unit, Chair of International Urbanism and Design at TU Berlin. Recent teaching activities include the ›Atlas of Digital Fragments‹ analyzing the global appropriation of digital tools by civil society actors in an international context.
More info: www.moritzahlert.de

Simon Weckert is an artist with his home base in Berlin. He likes to share knowledge on a wide range of fields from generative design to physical computing. His focus is the digital world – including everything related to code and electronics under the reflection on current social aspects, ranging from technology oriented examinations to the discussion of current social issues.
In his work, he seeks to assess the value of technology, not in terms of actual utility, but from the perspective of future generations. He wants to raise awareness of the privileged state in which people live within Western civilization and remind them of the obligations attached to this privilege.
Hidden layers like producing and transporting the raw minerals required to create the core infrastructure of technologie and "human fulled automation" labor of microworkers who perform the repetitive digital tasks that underlie new technologie are just some of the topics in his projects.