While the content in Google Earth is remarkably polished, there are still map glitches to be found from time to time. For example, here are a few hundred of them that people have posted over on Google Earth Hacks.
Clement Valla at Rhizome has taken a closer look at how these anomalies occur and has arrived an an interesting conclusion:
At first, I thought they were glitches, or errors in the algorithm, but looking closer, I realized the situation was actually more interesting — these images are not glitches. They are the absolute logical result of the system. They are an edge condition–an anomaly within the system, a nonstandard, an outlier, even, but not an error. These jarring moments expose how Google Earth works, focusing our attention on the software. They are seams which reveal a new model of seeing and of representing our world – as dynamic, ever-changing data from a myriad of different sources – endlessly combined, constantly updated, creating a seamless illusion.
It’s an impressive dive into the system of how Google selects imagery to be used in Google Earth. Valla discusses the basic idea that “better photographs are flatter, have fewer shadows and are taken from higher angles” and that broken images like that ones that he showcases are becoming more and more difficult to find. It’s also worth reading this post about how Google captures and loads imagery into Google Earth.
Clement’s piece is quite informative, and you can read the full article at Rhizome.