Friday, November 20, 2009

Google Image, How I Love Thee

Today I was working on something that required a bit of photo reference, in this case of the Montgomery Street BART Station in San Francisco. In pre-internet days, that would have required at least a trip to a library, or more than likely an actual journey to San Francisco with a camera in hand to take a few shots myself. Now, thanks to the magic of Google Image search, I turned up many images online, not just of the platform (both with and without trains), but the escalators leading up from the platform, the mezzanine, and several of the street level entrances. I was able to load the script up with links to exactly the shot that I had in mind, something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

I mentioned this online, and Willingham asked how writers in pre-internet days were able to write, without having recourse to Google Image. And honestly, I didn't know the answer. It's gotten to the point that I can't imagine writing without having access to internet searches, not just for image reference but for research and data.

How about the rest of the Tick-Tock Gang? Have you become as dependent on the internets as Bill and I have?


  1. I had to google 'prosthetic running leg' and hit the images button to see what the latest tech looks like for a new script.

    I settled on describing one that looks like a suspension spring bent into the shape of a question mark.

  2. My inner economist is whispering the next question, about supply and demand: Does this cornucopia of reference mean there are more people out there writing? Or is the authorial urge a constant within humanity, and writers are simply better referenced today?

  3. I think mostly all of that stuff is there online, ready for us to mine it, because there is nothing so obscure that someone doesn't love it so much that he's willing to spend a significant fragment of his life putting information about it online, often in a website devoted to said obscure thing. It is their love of odd stuff that we are exploiting for our own writerly needs. But this isn't a bad thing. Our making use it doesn't use it up, like real mining does. Which is why I continue to scoff at the silly notion of "Cultural Appropriation" as an area of concern and indignation from various self-appointed grievance groups. But that perhaps is a subject worthy of its own essay someday.

  4. I'm totally dependent on teh internets for research. For my first book I needed to know about which train companies were running in the midwest in the 70's, and I found someone who'd posted up every freight train schedule for multiple years. Just golden.

    But it's a two-edged sword. Sometimes the research is all-consuming, and I can derail myself (heh-- accidental pun) into spending hours on trivialities, and tracking down facts that would make no difference to the story. And sometimes I think, why don't I do this the old-fashioned way, and just make shit up?