View intro video or Globebop.

View update video or Globebop.


lobebop is an app for my fellow couch-potato tourists to explore the world with. Click the Bop button () to spin the globe. When it stops, there's rich visual and textual information about the random place you landed on.

It's also for regular travelers. If you're not into random mind travel, you can click the Home () button to view a map of your current geographic location—and Wikipedia articles about nearby points of interest— this is useful as a virtual Tour Guide.

It's also for people with an interest in history, culture, science, and education. Each time you click the Star () button, you're transported to a different UNESCO World Heritage Site or other special site.

The Globebop opening screen

You can search for locations—for a map view (), for photo-spheres, or for Wikipedia articles ()—but the random () is fun because it surprises you; it often takes you to places you did not know existed. Globebop presents:

Search for photo-spheres by location, view Wikipedia
article summaries and the full articles

Unlike Google Earth and Google maps, Globebop provides random access to the amazing—and quickly growing—collection of photo-spheres in the Google experimental database. About 60% of the time, you view photo-spheres taken by individuals, not the Google corporation. And about 90% of those are not road shots. They're usually offroad locations that matter to whomever took the photo.

Globebop offers a seemingly inexhaustible stream of random locations around the globe and a unique virtual experience of our planet; I spent a lot of time making sure you rarely visit photo-spheres you've already visited. Not only is it richly pictorial, but you can read about many of the locations via Wikipedia articles. You've got a picture in your head of what this planet of ours is like. Globebop will change that picture, make it bigger, fill in a lot of gaps, and give you a strong sense of places you did not know existed and help you better understand places you already know about.

Globebop expands your vision of the planet we live on and shows you ways of life you hadn't previously glimpsed. The sort of capacious vision of planet Earth that Globebop gives you is important to living in the global village. It shows you the village is very large indeed, but it also makes it more familiar to you, and understandable.

Globebop also displays photo-spheres I've taken of my world, such as Poetry Street in Vancouver. These are available to navigate by clicking the white arrow links onscreen before you first click the Bop button (). Thereafter, you see photo-spheres from Google's database of photo-spheres, whether they're random, via the Bop button or of World Heritage Sites and other special sites, via the Star button.

Poetry Street in Vancouver.

Geoguessr and my mom's fondness for browsing maps and encyclopedias were the main inspirations for Globebop. Geoguessr because it showed me there are creative possibilities for Google Maps open to the individual programmer-artist. You don't need a team of programmers to do something interesting.

Mom's inspiration for Globebop was this. On Sunday mornings, when the newspaper carried an especially big crossword puzzle, the kitchen table would be covered with the books mom, dad and I used to do the crossword. She was the ringleader. An atlas or three of maps and mom's various crossword hint books were the main books. We also used the World Book Encyclopedia. We liked browsing the maps in the atlas and looking up in the encyclopedia places we'd talk about. I think of those days fondly. I can see us at the kitchen table, the Sunday sun shining in, whiling away Sunday morning doing the crossword and browsing atlases and encyclopedias learning about the world. Globebop is great for exploring the world via maps, Wikipedia articles about places, and photo-sphere panoramas. It's how this generation does what mom, dad and I used to do with atlases and encyclopedias.

The ancient ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Globebop is a different experience from Google Maps, which focuses on maps. Globebop focuses on viewing photo-spheres, though it also lets you view Google maps and, significantly, geolocated Wikipedia articles. You find where you're going, in Google Maps; in Globebop, you can do that, but you can also go way off-road near somewhere you barely knew existed. Globebop is quite different from Google Earth, also, which contains all of the above media types, because the focus of Globebop is entertainment and art; Globebop is focused on providing a compelling experience, an adventure that you can learn from. Google Earth is fantastic, but its focus is on providing a tool with an incredible number of layers of geographical information.

The funnest use of Globebop, for me, is to find by chance an interesting location (click until you get there) and then explore that area. Sometimes photo-spheres are linked to other photo-spheres, such as in the below photo-sphere. Clicking the white arrow links (or using the arrow keys on the keyboard) lets you 'walk' and explore the directions the links point in.

The white arrows link to nearby photo-spheres.

Click Map View () to see a map of where you are. You can zoom in and out of it using the '+' and '-' controls. If there are Wikipedia articles available, you will see markers for them (). Click them to open a summary.

A Wikipedia article summary in Map View.

If you want to read the full article, click the title of the article.

The red arrow () indicates the location of the current photo-sphere. It also indicates the direction in which the photo-sphere is currently looking. Usually. Sometimes the red arrow's direction is wrong. But usually it's right.

You can see a list of available Wikipedia articles by clicking the Search button (). The summaries of Wikipedia articles have a link to the nearest photo-sphere; that's another way to explore. But, additionally, if you drag a map so that it has a new center point, when you subsequently click the Street View button (), you will be shown the nearest photo-sphere to the center of the map.

Click to display Wikipedia article summaries about places close to the current photo-sphere. Click an article's title to visit the article or click " nearest photo-sphere" to visit the photo-sphere nearest the location referenced in the article.

Globebop displays Google Street View ‘photo-spheres’, which are 360°, navigable panoramas. Sometimes you encounter linked photo-spheres. Hypertext links texts. Google Street View links panoramic photo-spheres. You drag the photo-sphere or use the right and left arrow keys on the keyboard to turn around; you use the up and down arrow keys on the keyboard or click the onscreen hyperlinks to move from one photo-sphere to linked ones.

About one in ten of the photo-spheres are photographed by Google, which has fleets of cars, backpacks, trolleys, snowmobiles, and trikes to shoot photo-spheres. About 90% of the photo-spheres you see in Globebop from the experimental database are photographed by private individuals. It’s now quite easy to shoot them, given that Google Camera lets you shoot photo-spheres with an Android 4.2+ smartphone or iPhone and upload them to Google. There are other free software programs for smartphone cameras that let you shoot photo-spheres and upload them to a variety of collections.

Google had 20+ petabytes of photo-spheres in 2012. That’s more than 20,000 terabytes, or 20,000 computers full of photo spheres. If each photo-sphere takes up 2Mb, say, then that would be in excess of 10 billion photo-spheres. You can look at Globebop for a long time without seeing the same photos. I've been working on the app for two years now; even after playing with it as long as I have, it still shows me new places I haven't seen more often than it shows me places I've already seen. Globebop is a long bopper. You can use it for years and still enjoy it.

The photo-spheres are sometimes taken from a car and are simply like a single frame in a dash-mounted video cam. That accounts for about one in ten of the photo-spheres you see in Globebop. But even these Google corp photo-spheres can get considerably stranger than that, as the work of Jon Rafman demonstrates at Rafman collects remarkable stills from Google Street View and displays them on his site. Most, or perhaps all of his collection, was photographed by Google employees. Rafman is looking for coincidental objective unusual drama, not the focused work of an individual photographer. In his essay The Nine Eyes of Google Street View he says:

Street Views evoked an urgency I felt was present in earlier street photography. With its supposedly neutral gaze, the Street View photography had a spontaneous quality unspoiled by the sensitivities or agendas of a human photographer. It was tempting to see the images as a neutral and privileged representation of reality—as though the Street Views, wrenched from any social context other than geospatial contiguity, were able to perform true docu-photography, capturing fragments of reality stripped of all cultural intentions.

Sounds like he's had second thoughts since then, naturally enough: Google cars are not unmarked, and Google itself is not unmarked; there is less "neutrality" going on than might appear at first. In any case, since Rafman began his interest, Google started letting individuals contribute photo spheres so that Street View is now quite different than it was previously. And it was mainly on the road. Now even Google itself takes gazillions of photo-spheres off-road.

But, interesting as the Google corporation photo-spheres occasionally are, to me, the ones taken by individuals are more interesting even if they are often not as accomplished technically. They are often a compelling statement about home, seemingly, about the place the photographer is from:

Photos from home

The above is by S Tanmay in Madhya Pradesh, India. The photographer is standing in dirt, almost in the mud. This is not the sort of photograph Google would take. Google in the mud? No, I don't think so. The photo seems to point to a problem. The water resource is being messed with. The photographer is standing in the dirt to show how, it seems.

The following photo-sphere by Jacqueline Rajuai in Kano Nigeria has the look of something taken by a wary observer, not a neutral one.


When we look at the Wikipedia articles for this photo-sphere, we see the photo was taken near the Great Mosque of Kano; the Wikipedia articles also make reference to the 2014 Kano bombing at the Grand Mosque in Kano:

The mosque is next to the palace of the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, Nigeria's second most senior Muslim cleric, who had urged the civilians to protect themselves by arming up against Boko Haram. Two suicide bombers blew themselves up and gunmen opened fire on those who were trying to escape. Around 120 people were killed and another 260 injured.

This photo is involved in its place. And the Wikipedia articles give some indication of some of the main conflicts there. Globebop allows you to read about the place, which is very important. The photos shot by individuals take you to what they themselves think is really going on there, often, and being able to read about the place provides important background information. Google sometimes flukes into real life when the Google car happens across the sort of work we see collected by Jon Rafman. But here we have people taking photos of places that matter to them. There is usually something genuinely interesting present.

Also, you will note that about 90% of the photo-spheres you view in Globebop are credited to individuals, not Google. This is because Globebop chooses random locations when you spin the globe. Google has done a lot of photography in relatively few locations--relative to the world, that is. If you happen to view a photo-sphere in North America, it's likely to be photographed by Google because they have photographed North America extensively. But if you land on a different continent, it's likely a photo-sphere taken by an individual. This gives Globebop a very different experience than Google Maps or Google Earth or even Geoguessr, which keeps to the roads. Globebop rarely shows photos taken from a car on a road. It does, however, show a lot of beach shots. The reason for this is because when Globebop selects a random location, chances are good it's out in the middle of an ocean. Globebop then shows the nearest photo-sphere to that location. Chances are good the nearest one is on a beach at the edge of that ocean.

However, once Globebop has showed you a photo-sphere, it usually won't show you the same one for a very long time. This is because Globebop keeps track of the photo-spheres you've already viewed. So it doesn't show you the same ones very often.

I've been developing Globebop for more than a year. It's still showing me photo-spheres every day that I haven't seen before. It shows me how the world looks in places that I didn't know existed or had not seen photos of previously. When I finally got it to the point where you could also read Wikipedia articles, it was great to see how much that changed the experience from one of solely looking at photos to reading about the places also, which gives the experience greater depth. My horizons on the world are larger because of my playing with Globebop. I hope it broadens the horizons of many people around the world.

In Globebop, when you click the globe to go somewhere random, you often end up on a beach. Why is that? It's cuz when you pick somewhere random on the planet, it's likely out in the middle of the ocean cuz there's a lot of ocean on the globe. A lot of ocean but not too many panoramas shot in the middle of the ocean. Globebop finds the closest panorama to the chosen random location. The closest panorama to somewhere in the ocean is likely on a beach. Often, these beaches look like they're at the end of the world.

After that, Globebop won't take you back to any points in the circle centered at the randomly chosen location (out in the ocean) with radius from that point to where you ended up. Why? Cuz obviously there are no panoramas in that circle except the one we ended up at.

The experience of Globebop is unique among the streetview apps, I think. It's sort of an ends-of-the-world experience. When you click the globe, it takes you somewhere random on the planet. Often, that's to a beach in the middle of nowhere. Or to tundra in the Arctic or Antarctic. And it works so that it rarely takes you back to places you've already seen. Also, unlike the other streetview apps, it usually takes you somewhere off road. Way way way off road. It takes you to panoramas not shot by Google inc., usually, but by individuals who have uploaded their shots to the database. It's personal.


Bop buttonBop: Click the Bop Button (or shake your mobile device) to be transported to a random photo-sphere somewhere on/below/above planet Earth. The red dot indicates where you landed. Globebop does not take you to the same places very often. The mighty Globebop bop engine quickly finds new places you have not seen before, time and time again. You can use Globebop for years and it'll still take you to new places you haven't seen everytime you use it.
Keyboard shortcut: G or B

Home buttonHome: Opens a map of your current geographic location at the center of the map and displays markers of Wikipedia articles concerning nearby notable locations. Good for travelers who want to find interesting nearby places to visit.

Home button displays your current geographical location
Click either of the two Home icons to display your current geographical location.

Keyboard shortcut: H

Search screen
Click the magnifying glass to open the Search screen

Keyboard shortcut: S

Map buttonMap View: View a Google map of the location associated with the current Street View photo-sphere.

Map of the Roman Colosseum
Map of the Roman Colosseum

Map of Roman Colosseum
Same area as above but in the familiar "Map" style

Map of Roman Colosseum
Same map as above but in the "Noir" style

Map View keyboard shortcut: M

Street View buttonStreet View: Return to Street View. This button toggles between Map View and Street View.

Street View keyboard shortcut: M (same as Map View shortcut)

Back buttonBack: Go back to the previous photo-sphere. The number inside the Back button indicates the number of the current photo-sphere. The number starts at 0 at the beginning of a session and increments each time you visit a new location.
Back keyboard shortcut: B

Share buttonShare: Share your current Street View. The URL in the Share dialog box, when clicked by a friend, displays to them the exact same Street View you currently have in Globebop.

Share current Street View
Share your current Street View

Share current Street View
Sharing your Street View via email

Share keyboard shortcut: U (for 'URL')

Extra ButtonsExtra Buttons: Toggle display of more menu buttons

Extra buttons displayed
Extra menu buttons are displayed.

Extra buttons keyboard shortcut: X (for 'Xtra')

Forward buttonForward: Go forward to the highest-numbered photo-sphere you've visited this session.

Forward keyboard shortcut: F

Info buttonInformation: View information about Globebop. Clicking the Information button again closes the Information screen.

Information keyboard shortcut: I

Special sites buttonSpecial Sites: Click to view a UNESCO World Heritage Site or other selected special site.

Information keyboard shortcut: W


Globebop was exhibited in a show of digital literature titled No Legacy at the Bernice Layne Brown Gallery in Doe Library, U of Berkeley, curated by Alex Saum­-Pascual and Élika Ortega, March 11 - September 2, 2016. Below are some images of the exhibition of Globebop.

Usually what you see in exhibitions of 'digital literature' is something that basically looks like a classroom with a bunch of computers. This was a bit different from that.

The exhibition is in a library, and the 'installation' of Globebop looks a lot like something you'd see in a library. It's like a news rack or map rack, but there's a touchscreen tablet for Globebop.

They also produced this etched glass/plastic.

Why, you ask, is Globebop in an exhibition of digital literature? My work is best known as digital literature; I've created a lot of online interactive poems and literary multimedia at since 1996. But I also see writers as broadening poetry and literature not only into the digital, but into and through other arts and fields; literature is much broader than it used to be.

Globebop is educational and entertaining. The prominent presence of text (click the Search button) is crucial to the educational dimension of Globebop.