On the Inside of Maps: Digital Earth Vision

The Russian Chapter of the International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE) took part in an important outreach project – a critical study of cartography, carried out by the leading Russian philosophical and literary journal “Logos”. A special issue of the journal, entitled “Research on Cartography»” (Logos, 2023, Vol. 33, No. 1), gathered together works by Russian and foreign authors devoted to the nature of maps and their internal transformation in an era of the Digital Earth as a new approach to the representation of external reality. Criticism suggests a crisis; the study aimed to outline the problem and identify the reasons behind the increasingly apparent inadequacy of maps to solve the task of objectively representing real space.

“There is something wrong with the common sense idea that the map represents territory. This is, if not a delusion, at least not the whole truth,” argues the preface to “On the Inside of Maps: Critical Cartography” by the issue’s editors Konstantin Ivanov, Alexander Pisarev and Stanislav Gavrilenko. “Critique of cartography is a research that aims to distinguish between what the professional view of the cartographer and/or the conventional notions of map and cartography do not distinguish in the map and mapping practices”. In other words, it is about asserting the paradigmatic (in T. Kuhn’s terms) nature of the geospatial crisis, which makes a philosophical discussion necessary and inevitable. Cartography does not just face the problems of mapping geospace and man’s place in it. It has largely created these problems by introducing an inherently distorted information model of geospace. The discussion in the pages of “Logos” took place in a very broad interdisciplinary context. An important aspect of the discussion was the focus on aesthetic, value and attitudinal aspects of the crisis of cartography. The key motifs and intuitions of the proposed discussion, according to the editors of the issue, are embodied in the project of the Moroccan-French artist Bouchra Khalili, which depicts wanderings and internal travails of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East. From now on this is how we see the horizon of classical cartography. An interesting feature of this, far from the first, critical study of cartography is its outreach nature, projecting the worldview crisis into other disciplines, problem areas and social circles, revealing its depth and multidimensionality, and aiming at a holistic search for its solution. The discussion was therefore summarised by a discussion of Digital Earth as a dialectical development of mapping that overcame its inextricable limitations. This point of view was presented in the paper “Digital Earth: the Geospatial Revolution and its Worldview Implications” by Eugene Eremchenko, Head of the Russian Chapter of the Digital Earth and ISDE Council member. Incorporating heterogeneous information into the holistic spatial-temporal volume of the Digital Earth is a mandatory condition for resolving a complex set of problems and contradictions that threaten the further development of civilization. In this respect, the scientific, technological and aesthetic development of Digital Earth as a new worldview paradigm and the sharing of Digital Earth Vision become a task of paramount importance. Particular attention should be paid to the aesthetics of Digital Earth, this little-explored and potentially very fruitful dimension of the geospatial revolution of our times. 

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