Believe it or not, Amazon actually has a patent for a flying warehouse.
It’s called Airborne Fulfillment Center, and its patent details a warehouse that could stand at a high altitude, deploying drones (called “unmanned aerial vehicles”, or UAVs, in the document) to deliver goods to the customers. Futuristic madness, right? Think again. It’s already been three years since, in December 2016, Amazon completed its first drone delivery, sending a package with an Amazon Fire TV and a bag of popcorn to a customer in the UK. At least your dog won’t chase the mailman anymore.
While some might look at this as just another step towards the future, or “progress”, multimedia artist Jason Isolini is here to remind us that there’s nothing intrinsically good about technology and its development. Airborne Fulfillment Center Patent: US9305280B1 questions the misallocation of resources towards customer convenience.
In this 360-degree collage, Isolini is the photographer taking us on a dystopian tour of the airborne warehouse. Everything is flying. Drones, food and Amazon Fire TVs might be falling on our heads at any time soon. But what the Brooklyn-based artist does in allowing us to explore this environment is to give us power to intervene on the scene, as we enter a private space that is supposed to be another way to promote their business.
Screenshot of Airborne Fulfillment Center Patent: US9305280B1. Anytime soon, stuff may be falling from the sky.
The work was originally assembled to be shown on Google Business View, a tool inside Google Maps. Isonili previously worked as a contractor photographer for Google Maps, meaning he would go to businesses to take photos and upload them into the platform. Years later, he started creating art and inserting it into the alter-world. So when you get close to a designated location, you may see a little window in the sky or somewhere around it, which gives access to the surreal world.
Isolini’s work finds its place among other artists whose curiosity about Google Maps has led to the development of an entire genre of art. From collections of oddities captured from Street View, to a hyperlapse that allows you to feel like going through a high-speed road trip, the works on this field serve the same purpose: to resignify Google Maps approach to capturing the world — omniscient, non-aesthetic, and “neutral”. The desire for this hyper-real representation inside the software has softened what common sense thinks as public and private space.
The experience has to be thought of, thus, as a subversion of the software’s logic. The corporative rationale is invaded by this colorful, immersive playground. Airborne Fulfillment Center Patent: US9305280B1 presents an alternative reality that the company might not want their customers to think about, and it allows us to question Amazon’s ideas of what exactly is good in technological development.
As if challenging one huge corporation wasn’t enough, Isolini’s work has managed to defy Google’s own vision for its software. His 40-plus contributions uploaded into Google Maps are subject to removal at any time because they “violate our Maps User Generated Content Policy,“ a spokesperson for Google said. That gives Isolini’s pieces a transient aspect on the platform they were designed for, but his work is sure to be backed up in other places.
The unwillingness to recognize the “imagery”, as the company called it, as a work of art, should come as no surprise. Digital art like this, however, should be appreciated by its defiance of some of the Internet’s biggest colossi and should instigate more debate on and thought about the ethics in technological development and about privacy, two topics that truly erupted in this fading 2010s decade, but that will continue to be hot over the upcoming one.
Nícolas Silva is a Journalism senior from Brazil at the University of Richmond in an exchange program. He loves sports, television and broadcasting, and when he’s not pursuing his career on one of those, he’s likely trying to learn something new.