Google Street View – urban research from your laptop?

by Stefan Breit & Elias Estermann

Here in Zurich we are starting to get ready our trip to Barranquilla – and google street view is allowing us to do so by roaming the market streets from our desktops !

Using big data offers a totally new approach to investigate urban settings. In this context, Google Maps and Google Street View are excellent tools to get a quick sense of almost any location in the world. Slowly, such methods are finding their way into the daily-life of scientists.

Recently, sociologists from Harvard University used this tool to assess gentrification in Chicago through collecting efficiently detailed visual evidence across hundreds of square miles of city streets. That Google Street View can even be used as instrument to engage communities, like this project by The Guardian. The british newspaper called for contributions to visualize the problems in any city – from dangerous junctions to poorly designed buildings. Every reader can join in by simply posting their own offending locations. So getting back to the literature, Curtis et al. (2013) highlight, that advantages using Google Street View include efficiency, safety, cost, and the potential to expand built environment research to larger areas and more places globally. To assess the feasibility of such data collection, Rundle et al. (2011) conducted a study about „Using Google Street View to Audit Neighborhood Environments“. They did so, because in-person audit of an environment is costly and time-consuming and this can obviously be done more easily and at lower costs. The authors conclude, that due to high levels of concordance, Google Street view „can be used to audit neighborhood environments“.

It’s definitively worth checking out Google Street View for the Central Market in Barranquilla.

Feel free to virtually walk through all the streets – inclusive all its peculiarities. You can easily do so by clicking on this image below, and we encourage our Colombian friends to take a stroll around Zurich!


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