Phil Steinberg reflects on mapping, the sea, and the question of volume.
Thanks to a retweet from Klaus Dodds, I recently read this blogpost by marine ecologist Jon Copley on seabed mapping. Copley’s central message is that the statistics that we continually see reproduced in the media about 95% of the seabed being ‘unexplored’ and about us knowing more about the surface of Mars than we do about the ocean floor are oversimplifications. Different kinds of maps and ‘explorations’ reflect different knowledges and serve different purposes. Copley brilliantly moves from a technical discussion of mapping techniques (e.g. satellites vs. surface-based sonar vs. submersibles) and attendant issues of resolution and scale to suggest that our acceptance of depictions of the ocean as ‘unknown’ derives from our failure to ask more conceptual questions regarding the representative power of the map and the nature of knowledge.
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