Tuesday, December 8, 2009

repositioning of maps

Lisa Parks’ talks presented some very provocative concepts on the repositioning of maps and satellite images in terms of power structures. What I found interesting about her paper was her call for the change in direction of the look at maps and at satellite images. She is accepting the inevitable saturation and utility of satellite imagery in our society, and stressing the subsequent need for questioning it. Her idea to change the symbol of the pinpointing (zero-ing in) arrow addresses the need to reposition the act of searching through satellite in the power dynamics of control and domination through imagery. This is an aesthetic object that both carries physical and ideological weight in its un-questioned state.

On a practical level, I just have trouble understanding how she sees this change from acceptance to interrogation being done outside an academic setting, if she sees that at all. Redirecting the look is a large task, especially as google maps/earth seems to become ubiquitous and naturalized as a form of truth. But on a smaller level, her talk has changed the way I personally (a blindly avid user of Google maps) will approach satellite imagery—with a question as to how the image reflects back on my perceptions of location and power.

Paglen similarly repositioned maps and imagery—to space. I found myself questioning how his geographic “blank spots on the map” related to spacecrafts that can only really be seen by 70 year old satellite trackers and large state apparatuses. Additionally, how do the MiTex spacecrafts that are specifically designed to be invisible relate to the geographic positioning of secrecy? Is there a difference between a government blackening out pieces of land that by definition exist and creating “invisible, undetectable” mechanisms of destruction? both really circle the same notion of “blank spots”, yet the notion of a blank spot in space seems much mores frightening to me because space is much harder to map and conceive in the first place.

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