A Face In The Crowd


Louise Ure

Here’s a little something to either make you think our promised personal jet packs are right around the corner, or make you so scared that you want to rush home and pull the drapes closed.


Check out this site right here. 

It is absolutely stunning. Zero in on any face in that crowd of more than 10,000 people, double click a few times and watch anonymity morph into a virtual line up.

It’s like the reverse of Pointillism, where the father back you stand, the more the picture makes sense.


With Gigapixels, there is no such thing as far enough back.

Gigapixels are the marriage of photography and Google Earth technology. Their photos are a patchwork of  panoramic shots which are taken over a 10 or 15 minute period and then strung together to give you both a panoramic effect and a clarity of small detail. Just plug your old SLR or pocket camera into the Gigapan camera base ($499) and it does all the planning and panning for you.



The Gigapixel photo of that Canadian crowd is made up of 216 individual photos, taken over a 15 minute period, and in its final form is 69,394 X 30,420 pixels.

Jeez, it makes me almost want to wear a burka in public. Well, maybe a hoodie and sunglasses anyway.

Sure, it’s a cool technology, but, combined with advances in facial recognition technology, there’s something pretty “1984-ish” about it, too.

On the other hand, it sure does suggest some interesting plot twists.

How about you all? Is this nirvana? Orwellian? Or just great fictional fodder?


22 thoughts on “A Face In The Crowd

  1. Alaina

    Orwellian. And frightening.

    Some technological advances are great, but short of government tracking or stalking, how will this one EVER be used?

  2. Sarah W

    'Scuse me . . . I need to go brush my hair. Or maybe find a hat. And buy my daughters bigger bathing suits.

    I can think of three or four uses for this technology outside of artistic endeavors . . . but only one of them is legal. Maybe.

  3. MJ

    I can see this as a Will Smith/Tom Cruise film right now. The trailer would capture it – in a world where anyone can see everything you do…. switch to Protag clicking through site and witnessing a murder.

    Hey, Rear Window 2011. There you go.

  4. Tammy Cravit

    I find the contrast fascinating – ever greater anonymity in our online lives, with all the bad behavior that such anonymity engenders, and at the same time ever decreasing anonymity in our offline existences.

    Online, you can stalk, harass, flame, and criticize with relative impunity. Consequences are rare, and usually relatively minor. Offline, the all-seeing eyes of hundreds of cameras capture us jaywalking, running stop signs and red lights, and automatically send us tickets. Our dumb or dangerous decisions end up on YouTube or reality TV for the world to see. And the police can (at least for now) walk up our driveways and stick GPS trackers on our cars without a search warrant.

    What crazy notions of privacy all this technology is creating!

  5. Louise Ure

    Alaina, I think I'm siding with you. It's creepy.

    Yes, Ms. C,and Sarah. It shows the spinach. And the unwashed hair. Ugh. Just imagine. What Not To Wear can do all their filming by remote.

    I like Rear Window 2011, MJ. Imagine solving the crime by just clicking on different parts of the picture to discover things.

    That's an interesting parallel, Tammy. The anonymity of the internet and invasiveness of the of the person. There's a book in there — and a tyranny– methinks.

  6. Lisa Alber

    Oh yeah, I'm picturing a movie with an Inception-like feel, trippy effects the wow folks so much that they forget that the reality is actually here.

  7. Louise Ure

    Stephen, you would definitely need a disguise. Perhaps as a cop?

    Yeah, Lisa, the films always look so futuristic, until we realize they're primarily based on currently available technology. Ruh roh.

  8. Reine

    I don't know. they hve camers all over the place to enforce the trffic laws with no money to back up the system. I'm sure it must be used for spying, nd probably is invasive of individual liberties. But really I think it makes a better thriller than a threat.

    I'll sign on for the jet pack.

    [Sorry – hving trouble with s !$#*^#`* As again. Saving for new computer!!!]

  9. Sheri Hart

    That is creepy and cool.

    I knew there were benefits to spending all my time in the basement writing. : ) Try catching me in one of those crowd shots, Googlebots.


  10. Jenni L.

    I definitely agree with you, Louise. It's frightening. There is no longer any real sense of privacy in this world. Technology seems to be a double-edged sword, creating legal quandaries until we adapt and try to regulate it.

  11. Louise Ure

    Perhaps our English friends have a better answer about all those cameras, Reine. I think they're more common in the UK.

    Sheri and Jenni? Looks like it's time to invest in big floppy hats … on those days when we're forced to leave the basement.

  12. Allison Davis

    David Bergman's famous gigapan of the Obama Inaguration caught some interesting faces (see Scalia or Aretha's hat or Cheney scowling) and this was my first experience at it. I liked that it brought this public event so close. http://www.davidbergman.net/gigapan/

    But science always has its good and bad uses. Is it an invasion of privacy (there are lots of lawyers on Murderati) to take your private photo like this? (It would be to use it somewhere, but to spy on you?). Probably not under current law.

    It is a great technology but used for evil….spying on a murder victim or murderer? Could be interesting. (And yes, we all want jet packs.)

  13. Judy Wirzberger

    Do you think it will replace the current version of match.com?
    My mind doesn't even want to go where my thoughts speed.
    However, it could be used to prove one's innocence. I'll wait for the movie.

  14. Reine

    To clarify: I agree it's worth being concerned about. Didn't mean to brush it off. And don't like my privacy invaded, Nevertheless, I am not worried — yet. That's why it's worth getting those stories out there. Fiction in any format makes people more aware of possibilities and threats to the common good than all else. News warns, but only after something happens. What we need are your visions to project beyond the news.

  15. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Forget jet packs, I want to go into other people's dreams.

    Isn't there a definition of elegance that goes something like: "Live all the time as if people were watching you?"

    I think we're there. Great post, LU.

  16. Reine

    Oh, Louise . . . I was thinking locally, as in Tucson. Sorry I left that out.

    One of my sons had a ticket sent to him, complete with photo of him and his truck running a red light. The problem was, it was not him, and it was not his truck. The license plate number was similar, but there was a partial block of one of the numbers caused by a trailer hitch – that he never had either. With all that close-up information they were still wrong. I think that is the scariest part.

  17. Larry Gasper

    I'm not sure how Orwellian it might get. Despite all the photographic evidence of the Vancouver riots that happened shortly after the crowd shot was taken, not a single person has been arrested yet. This includes the ones who turned themselves in. Might just be the incompetence of the Vancouver police though.

  18. Louise Ure

    Allison, thanks for that link! What a crowd scene! (Too late, Alafair. Take a look at Allison's shot.)

    Judy, just wait until our Facebook page is linked with this photography! Speaking of which, in answer to Larry's comment farther down, Facebook asked people to self-identify in the crowd scene, until they realized it could be used in prosecutions.

    Yes, Reine, fiction can inform and warn us in so many ways. (Think "The Handmaid's Tale.")

    Hmm, Alex. Elegance is living like people are watching? My version is more downscale. "Don't pick your nose in car. Windshields don't make you invisible."

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