Embodied Space in Google Earth: Crisis in Darfur

Catherine Summerhayes

Abstract


“The ‘eyes’ made available in modern technological sciences shatter any idea of passive vision; these prosthetic devices show us that all eyes, including our own organic ones, are active perceptual systems…” (Donna Haraway, 1991).



A tool of military surveillance to “love at a distance”? (Caroline Bassett, 2006). Google Earth, a culmination of remote sensing satellite technologies, mega database and 3D animations, is open to both kinds of critique. This paper focuses on the latter, on how the human faculty for compassion might be aligned with and elicited from the ways we search and apprehend the swirling visions of earth that Google Earth makes available. Haraway’s idea that new kinds of “prosthetic” vision constitute “active perceptual systems” resonates strongly with Hansen’s description of the digital image as a new kind of image that is produced through the process of searching rather than from passive viewing. My discussion of the Google Earth site, Crisis in Darfur, investigates the subversive possibilities of compassion in opening up an aesthetic and yet mundane space of respite from the regimes of power inherent to Google Earth, a website with an undeniable prehistory of military surveillance.

Keywords


bio-convergence; bioconvergence; Google; Google Earth; Darfur; genocide; vision; prosthesis; embodiment; compassion

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