Witness the artifact of the process

Derek Mueller over at Earth Wide Moth posted an interesting meditation on Google's recent mapping of the famously lost city of Atlantis.
image from Google Earth

Google's spokesperson addressed interest in the image by clarifying the lines, taken for ruins, that mark the ocean floor. S/he said in an email: "What users are seeing is an artifact of the data collection process...The fact that there are blank spots between each of these lines is a sign of how little we really know about the world's oceans."

Derek's post (found here) focuses on this very issue of method, of the discovery of the trace even if it is not the trace of a lost civilization. Instead, on the map, we are left with signs or remnants of the mapper. Derek says:

"The conspiracy doesn't interest me all that much. Instead, I'm struck by the impression: the stamp left by the "systematic" tracing, the residue of the surface-to-sea-floor method (a term others have smartly untangled it into meta-hodos or something like 'beyond ways', even 'ways beyond'; this etymological dig lingers with me). The deep blue grid of "bathymetric data" elicits questions: why don't we see these in the adjacent areas? What was it about this boat, this collection process, this translation from sound to image, that left behind the vivid trails?"

The Magic of Photography (and Photoshop)

An idealized picture of the Egg McMuffinImage credit: http://www.thewvsr.com/adsvsreality.htm

A friend sent along a link to this story at urlesque.com touting a web site with side-by-side comparisons of the official photographs of fast food menu items alongside their rather depressing real-world counterparts. The Platonic Ideal has never seemed so far away.... Meet the *real* Egg McMuffin, after the jump.

Written on the Body

A tattoo on a woman's eyelid advertises a web site
Image credit: FeelUnique.com via NYT

Well, after today I will absolutely stop poaching all my Viz. entries from the The New York Times, but their home page is currently trumpeting a story on "The Body as Billboard" that I imagine any reader of this blog would be interested in.

Fallen Soldiers

At his first televised press conference last week, President Obama received a question about a controversy that, though once debated quite energetically, had seemed for a time to recede into the background as the casualty rate for U.S. soldiers has fallen. The questioner wanted to know whether the new administration would order the Pentagon to reverse its policy of forbidding the publication of photographs showing the return of fallen soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (President Obama responded by not commenting, since the policy is currently "under review.")Flag-draped coffins returning from IraqImage credit: thememoryhole.org, via Associated Press, NYT, 2/15/2009

The question, and the issue, were covered yesterday by The New York Times in a story and an editorial urging the President to overturn the policy. As the author of the former summarizes the issue, "Part of the debate that has developed turns on whether the return of soldiers is a private or public matter. While families have registered a range of opinions about allowing the news media at Dover, many have maintained that the return of a body is so deeply personal that they should be able to decide whether to keep it private." Above and beyond the questions raised by the difficult question of how to treat the images of what is essentially both a public and a private sacrifice (a soldier dying for his or her country is also lost to his or her family), the debate itself is simply a reminder of the power of images to move arguments.

Arab Image Foundation

The progressive deconstruction of Orientalism is catching up with information technology. Since 1996, the Arab Image Foundation, based in Lebanon, has been amassing a digital collection of photographs from the Arab world.

New Permanent Content Section at viz.

We at viz. are happy to announce the launch of our "views" section, in which we will post interviews with prominent scholars in the field. Our initial post is an interview with Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites, the authors of No Caption Needed. Check back for additional content in the coming weeks.

Cartooning Obama

Right off the bat, I want to say that I'm not accusing contemporary political cartoonists of creating racist depictions of Barack Obama. But I do wonder, is that tough to avoid? Political cartoons typically accentuate the subject's features in unflattering ways. They're caricatures. Remember George W. Bush's enlarged ears? The problem is that, with the nation's first African-American President, cartoonists have to avoid a whole history of racist cartooning. They have to simultaneously do what they've always done, which is make fun of the most powerful person in the world, but without referencing a racist visual history.

Consider this racist cartoon:

a racist political cartoon

(Image from the Ferris State University Jim Crow Museum)

For your Valentine Viewing Pleasure

(Disclaimer: there is some blood and guts in this video.)

Slate V has posted a video celebrating the collision of the lovey-dovey Valentine holiday with the seemingly incongruous tradition of releasing gory movies with Valentine's day themes. The video was inspired by the upcoming release of the remake of Friday the 13th--on, appropriately, the upcoming Friday the 13th, the day before Valentine's Day. Surely the collision of these two elements says something deep about our culture? Maybe love really *is* the devil. Or is it just that machete-wielding maniacs are as good an excuse as any to get a little close to that special someone? Surely this is a very old idea: while I was writing this I thought of the motto engraved on the Wife of Bath's amulet in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: AMOR VINCIT OMNIA [Love conquers all]: an ominous pronouncement then and now...


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"I Can Read Movies"

This is my first blog for Viz., so I thought I'd post some lighthearted fare from ffffound.com.

The picture below, part of a series of visualizations of film titles, really grabbed me.

I Can Read Movies Temple of Doom

The rest of them can be found here at Space Sick's website.

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