The Universal Texture
“…. I collect Google Earth images. I discovered them by accident, these particularly strange snapshots, where the illusion of a seamless and accurate representation of the Earth’s surface seems to break down. I was Google Earth-ing, when I noticed that a striking number of buildings looked like they were upside down. I could tell there were two competing visual inputs here —the 3D model that formed the surface of the earth, and the mapping of the aerial photography; they didn’t match up. Depth cues in the aerial photographs, like shadows and lighting, were not aligning with the depth cues of the 3D model.
The competing visual inputs I had noticed produced some exceptional imagery, and I began to find more and start a collection. At first, I thought they were glitches, or errors in the algorithm, but looking closer, I realized the situation was actually more interesting — these images are not glitches. They are the absolute logical result of the system. They are an edge condition—an anomaly within the system, a nonstandard, an outlier, even, but not an error. These jarring moments expose how Google Earth works, focusing our attention on the software. They are seams which reveal a new model of seeing and of representing our world – as dynamic, ever-changing data from a myriad of different sources – endlessly combined, constantly updated, creating a seamless illusion.
3D Images like those in Google Earth are generated through a process called texture mapping. Texture mapping is a technology developed by Ed Catmull in the 1970’s. In 3D modeling, a texture map is a flat image that gets applied to the surface of a 3D model, like a label on a can or a bottle of soda. Textures typically represent a flat expanse with very little depth of field, meant to mimic surface properties of an object. Textures are more like a scan than a photograph. The surface represented in a texture coincides with the surface of the picture plane, unlike a photograph that represents a space beyond the picture plane. This difference might be summed up another way: we see through a photograph, we look at a texture. This is an important distinction in 3D modeling, because textures are stretched across the surface of a 3D model, in essence becoming the skin for the model. …”
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE: http://rhizome.org/editorial/2012/jul/31/universal-texture/#notes