Week 13:

The Internet and the Web: Mediological Case Study

Unraveling Google Earth

Google Earth is a program which provides our culture the capacity to view maps, obtain directions, search locations and view various images of specific locations. The user has the capability to view objects such as their homes or school in high resolution imagery as well as lower resolution imagery showing images such as continents. This tool has shown to not just be amusing but also very useful as individuals are able to understand and learn about an area of interest. Since the software allows you to be connected to Google’s different servers, you are able to “view a city with certain “layers” turned on, including topographical information, population data and crime statistics for the area”(Layton). While people enjoy this software, many are unaware of how they are accessing the images and data they search for. The majority of the images come from various satellites and aircrafts. It is important to realize that when you are viewing most of these images they are not in real time. I will begin by discussing the history of Google Earth then proceed to discuss some of the tools within the software and lastly I will discover the invisible agencies within this software.

Surprisingly, Google cannot take complete credit for this valuable and informative innovation. Keyhole Inc. used to be a software development company who received a great deal of attention in 2001 after creating a program called EarthViewer 3D (Seemab). This program had the basic components of Google Earth but lacked the amount of features the application has currently. A few years went by and Google soon realized the functionality and usefulness of this program (EarthViewer 3D). After Google purchased Keyhole Inc. in 2004, made a few transformations to the original EarthViewer 3D, Google re-released the program with a new name: Google Earth (Seemab).

I first remember hearing about this platform through my friend’s excitement of being able to view images of their neighborhood and personal home. As I continued to use this device, I realized the program allows users to explore all over the world and zoom in on specific landmarks and locations. Although Google Earth provides a great deal of visual locations, occasionally you will come across an image that is blurred. Google Earth is not allowed to show locations of sensitive areas such as military bases, homes of royalty and has been blocked in several countries such as India and Sudan (Wikipedia). Below is a visual of a blurred out image.

blurred out image of royalty house.jpg
Wikipedia Image

Google Earth offers users an array of easily-accessible tools. Throughout the years Google continues to develop various programs such as Google Sky, Google Moon, Google Street View, Historical Imagery and Google Ocean. Google Ocean and Google Sky allow users to go beyond the basic geography of land and explore underwater as well as view the beautiful stars within space (Seemab). The Historical Imagery aspect of Google Earth provides advantages to those who are curious of “historical development and background of a certain place”(Seemab). All of these applications within Google Earth provide Internet users the ability to travel the world at their desktop.

Google Earth in Sky Viewing Mode.png
Wikipedia Image of Sky Mode

Traveling the world at one’s desktop using Google Earth may come across as a simple task. Individuals can download the software for free and begin searching the world for specific locations. Our culture is unaware of the complicated steps and algorithms this device uses to display these satellite and aircraft images. I was able to find a great article that helped me look at the “inner guts” of Google Earth to understand how the software operates. The article, How Google Earth Works explains that the most fascinating part of Google Earth is not it’s ability to compile and store all of the images but the important aspect to consider is how quickly and efficiently your computer is receiving this compiled data (Layton). In order for the creators of Google Earth to figure out a way to shorten the transfer time of information and images, they use our computer’s disk cache. Disk Caches allow our computers to store images and data that we have accessed so in case we want to re-view the data or image, your computer will not need to retransfer the file (Layton). Other techniques Google Earth uses to transfer large amounts of information to our computers are mip mapping and clip stacking. The article describes mit mapping as, “collections of bitmap images that work…in an inverted pyramid structure, stacked on each other with each level having twice the resolution of the one under it…these stacks ultimately create a three-dimensional representation of a two-dimensional image”(Layton). Finally the software uses clip stacks which are compiled mipmaps that are altered to a specific size. Clip stacks use various algorithms which aid in figuring out “which sections of the larger virtual texture are needed and uses only those sections to create the final images”(Layton). Essentially Google Earth relies on software that quickly and efficiently transfers several amounts of data to your computer at a simple click of your mouse.

"Google Earth." Wikipedia. N.p.. Web. 19 Nov 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Earth>.

Layton, Julia, Jonathan Strickland and Charles W. Bryant. "How Google Earth Works" 15 October 2007. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/google-earth.htm> 21 November 2012.

Seemab, . "Google Earth: History and Features." ED Elegant Directory. N.p., 28 2010. Web. 19 Nov 2012. <http://www.elegantdirectory.com/articles/google-earth-history-and-features.html>.

Emily Fuerst

What lies behind Google Music
Kassie Barroquillo
Google Music is the Google/Android equivalent to iTunes. On the surface, one can recognize that you can both purchase and load songs onto your computer or other device. There is a music cloud, which you can store your music on and then listen to songs from your mobile device using data or wifi. There are many actants which have influenced this service, some examples follow:

First, Google Music must be compatible with multiple devices. The Android operating system works on multiple kinds of phones. The Android platform works on hardware developed by Samsung, Motorola, Pantech, HTC and many others. Contracts have to be made with each hardware company. This also means updates to the devices come out at different times. Typically, Samsung and Motorola are the first to receive the updates to the devices. This complication is one of the biggest complaints amongst Android users.

Google Music also has worked to find ways to allow the migration of iTunes files. They have allowed any iTunes AAC format files, but not the DRM format iTunes used before 2009. Any iTunes podcast which are in MP3 format will work. iTunes music videos will not work.

Currently the most embattled aspect of Google Music is use of the cloud to play music. Google/Android have determined that the use of the cloud is equivalent to the use of an external hard drive. “But over the years, some labels and publishers have maintained that any time a user streams a song over the Internet, royalty payments apply
,” Rosoff. This is a similar battle Amazon is having as well. Currently, there is no answer.

Google Music has had to work diligently to ensure people do not upload illegal music. This is something the company has had to do in order to ensure its integrity. Methods like digital music watermarking, which allows record companies to encode files are instrumental.

Also, “If Google Music detects multiple copies of the same information; it can filter the files that contain it, preventing users from uploading the files. Conversely, Google could also be forced by record labels into only accepting music uploads that feature that sort of identifying information,” (Bilton).

At first, Google Music was only going to store music, not sell music. It wound up being beneficial to the company to sell music as well. This means the service has been influenced by negotiations with record labels and musicians.

When creating Google Music, Google also had to take into account how Google Music would fit within the array of Google products. At that point, this was the first cloud service Google offered. The cloud service actually lent itself to Google Drive.

Bilton, Ricardo. "Google Music Won't Allow Users to Store Illegal Songs." ZDNet. N.p., 10 May 2011. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <http://www.zdnet.com/blog/gadgetreviews/google-music-wont-allow-users-to-store-illegal-songs/24538>.
Rosoff, Matt. "Google Music 'Completely Legal', But Label Cooperation Would Help." Fox Business. N.p., 10 May 2011. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <http://www.foxbusiness.com/technology/2011/05/10/google-music-completely-legal-label-cooperation-help/>.

OSI, Abstraction, and Networks
By Eric Cruet

Using layers of abstraction as a method for hiding the implementation details of a particular complex set of functionality has been used since the 6th century. For example, the palimpsest, which is a is a manuscript page from a scroll or book from which the text has been scraped off and which can be used again, was used to hide hidden messages stenographically by abstracting a message written in one form of media pretending it was hidden in another.
In today’s software models, commonly used layers of abstraction on the Internet include the OSI 7-layer model for computer network protocols, the OpenGL graphics drawing library, and the byte stream input/output (I/O) model originated by Unix and adopted by Windows, Linux, and most other modern operating systems.

Prior to OSI, networking was largely either government-sponsored (ARPANET, CYCLADES) or vendor-developed and proprietary standards such as SNA and DECnet, and as such had their own proprietary models for implementing software and protocol architectures.

The Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model (ISO/IEC 7498-1) is a product of the Open Systems Interconnection effort at the International Organization for Standardization. Its development started in 1970. It is a prescription of characterizing and standardizing the functions of a communications system in terms of abstraction layers. Similar communication functions are grouped into logical layers. A layer serves the layer above it and is served by the layer below it. Although there were many attempts, it was never fully implemented. But its true value emerged as an abstract architecture model.

The OSI network is still referenced, although the Internet's TCP/IP protocol suite is used in lieu of the OSI protocols. TCP/IP's pragmatic approach to computer networking and two independent implementations of simplified protocols made it a practical standard. Some protocols and specifications in the OSI stack remain in use in legacy systems. The brilliancy in the OSI model has nothing to do with its implementation. It has everything to do with its ability to define future network and software systems design regardless of specific protocol, network, and programmatic criteria, as a robust, efficient method to transform any media regardless of form to any other medium, ready for transmission, anytime- anyplace -anywhere.


Stallings, W. (1987). Handbook of computer-communications standards; Vol. 1: the open systems interconnection (OSI) model and OSI-related standards. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc..

Dembskey, E. (2011). Information Warfare in Greece and Rome: Cryptography and Steganography. Leading Issues in Information Warfare and Security Research, 20.