Temporal Earths: Technical Memory and the Global Map

Lawrence Bird

Abstract


This paper discusses popular digital imaging and mapping systems (through the representative Google Earth) in terms taken from Bernard Stiegler’s writing on technology, especially technical memory. Far from a perfect realization of the modern project to map the world, these systems are full of anomalies and errors, and in fact such failures are built into that project; as Stiegler puts it, the straight line generates the bent. To illustrate this point, the paper discusses three creative works in video which employ moving satellite images harvested from paths along the Earth’s surface. Architecture has long been embedded in modern attempts to systematize the world (and vice versa); these observations might serve to help critically address that relationship.

 

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