As I headed to Tribeca on a recent research trip to follow two of the walking tours I’m mapping for my project, a pair of free podcasts released by The Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting in 2009 that lead listeners to famous (and not-so-famous) shooting locations in Lower Manhattan, I began to wonder whether my plan for the day was worthwhile. I had intended to follow the tours and take photographs of the various buildings and sites they connect, from the firehouse where the Ghostbusters' spectral pest control operation was headquartered (14 North Moore Street) to the bank that Clive Owen robbed in Inside Man (20 Exchange Place). I wondered whether there was any point in showing users these locations as they appear today, since it seems to me that the value of our project is primarily archival. Viewers should be encouraged to engage the city as it appears today informed by our archaeological data, not explore its digitized facsimile from their computer.
This problem reminded me of a related media mapping project that I came across over a year ago, which was created in 2006: the Ironic Sans Google Maps Guide to Ghostbusters. That project tagged major locations from the films to their real-world locations, with customized markers indicating which locales figured in the first and second movie. Exploring that map made me wonder how much those locations had changed. It apparently provoked the same reaction from the shooting location scout who runs the blog Scouting NY, because he posted two exhaustive photo series (part 1, part 2) juxtaposing shots from the films with the present-day sites (as pictured above). Where the first project elicited curiosity, urging users to explore the dramatically changed streetscape, the Scouting NY posts did viewers' work for them, filling in the present-day portion of the tour.
I eventually decided against photographing the locations explored in those two podcast tours, opting instead to collect films clips and stills in hopes of pushing users out into the streets to go see for themselves. That said, URT's compatibility with smartphones and handheld locational devices is especially crucial in this regard. I'm assuming (especially after meeting with a student from the Parsons class who's working on this specific part of URT) that the tool will work with iPhones and the like, and therefore it will be easy for users to follow a tour such as this on foot, in the actual places it maps. On the other hand, if URT is better explored at a desk, perhaps I should go take those photographs after all.