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Artifact: Digital landscapes

Text by Alexandra Ntoukas

When the pandemic hit Ontario, the physical landscape became a difficult place to navigate. Many people turned to their screens for work, education, connection, and play. Now, over a year into the pandemic, our screens continue to be our primary interface for connecting with the world.

I was introduced to a web-based game called GeoGuessr. Using Google Street View, the game randomly places you somewhere in the world, and you have to figure out your location within a certain time frame by exploring your surroundings. The closer you guess to your location, the higher your point score.

GeoGuessr screenscrab. IMAGE/Alexandra Ntoukas

GeoGuessr is both a digitization and gamification of the physical landscape. By gamifying Street View, user engagement is increased. There are even online communities which have sprung up to trade tips about how to win. These tips relate to knowledge of the real world, allowing for casual exploration and learning within the confines of each session, and users gain a familiarity with plants, traffic signs, licence plates, and other location-specific information that improves their score in the game.

As an artifact, GeoGuessr is a success story for increasing engagement within the landscape, digital and physical, that is scalable to the practices of landscape architecture.

BIO/ Alexandra Ntoukas is a 2020 graduate  of the University of Toronto’s Master of Landscape Architecture Program and a member of the Ground editorial board.