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Sounding the Limits of LifeEssays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond$
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Stefan Helmreich

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691164809

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691164809.001.0001

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From Spaceship Earth To Google Ocean

From Spaceship Earth To Google Ocean

Planetary Icons, Indexes, and Infrastructures

(p.116) Chapter 1 0 From Spaceship Earth To Google Ocean
Sounding the Limits of Life

Stefan Helmreich

Sophia Roosth

Michele Friedner

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how digital media represent seawater, relying upon, but also making invisible, the built infrastructures—commercial, political, military—that have permitted the oceanic world to be described as something like a “global ocean” in the first place. Drawing on the work of Charles Sanders Peirce, it explores how Earth and its ocean, as they have been ported into the digital, have become a confusing mixture of different kinds of signs—the sorts Peirce would have called indexes, icons, and symbols. It considers a kindred image-object, Google Ocean, and how Google Earth politics is connected to it, as well as what sort of representation of the planetary sea is in the making in these digital days. It argues that Google Ocean is a mottled mash of icons, indexes, and symbols of the marine and maritime world as well as a simultaneously dystopian and utopian diagram of the sea.

Keywords:   digital media, seawater, global ocean, Charles Sanders Peirce, Earth, indexes, icons, symbols, Google Ocean, Google Earth

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