The shifting hegemonic relations between American and German human geography in light of the quantitative revolution, 1900-1970s

This research project looks at two intertwined processes in the history of North American and German geography from the early 20th century to the 1970s. First, the shifting hegemonic relations between “theory-importer” United States and “theory-exporter” German human geography, in which a formerly peripheral US geography triumphed over its German counterpart and became hegemonic after WWII; second, this shift was connected to the post-WWII quantitative revolution in US and Canadian geography during the 1950s and 1970s, in which the discipline became a mathematical and rigorous Cold War spatial science. This project follows a transnational historical perspective in the historical geographies of scientific knowledge to look at how geographical knowledge circulated and interacted between North America and Germany. It does so by analyzing the influence and circulation of German geographical knowledge and location theories, most notably central place theory in urban and regional planning, which became a paradigmatic theory of Cold War geography internationally, and later re-influenced German geography from the late 1960s from the US. The research project is based on archival research and career path interviews with scholars connected to the quantitative revolution.

Reklámok

Two new abstracts sent to ICHG2018 and AAG2018

My latest plan is to send two abstracts to the 17th International Conference of Historical Geographers in Warsaw, July 15-20 and one – the latter abstract here provided – to the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in New Orleans, April 10-14 in 2018. In the first case, the first abstract will hopefully be part of the following session:

– SESSION –

Global Histories of Geography 19301990

Convenors: Ruth Craggs (King’s College London) and Hannah Neate (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Reflecting on the key centres associated with the emergence of geography as a spatial science in the 1960s Barnes (2002, 508) remarked: “Why are places in Africa not on there, or Asia, or Australasia?” thereby highlighting significant gaps in disciplinary histories and accounts of geography’s development in the second half of the twentieth century. By way of response, this session aims to highlight work into the ‘global’ histories of geography in the period 1930-1990, a period marked by geopolitical transitions including WWII, decolonization and the end of the Cold War.  We are looking to make links with scholars who are carrying out research on the history and practice of geography, specifically in submissions that explore scholarly communities of geographers whose contribution to the development of geography in the twentieth century often goes unrecognised in the ‘canon’ of geographical research.

Possible themes for papers:

  • Papers focusing on geographers from the global South, Indigenous geographers in settler states, Asian geographies and geographers, geographers from the former Eastern Block
  • Biographies of individuals or groupings of geographers
  • Accounts that highlight how geography was being pursued in other ‘centres’
  • The role and development of national and international disciplinary associations and networks
  • Geographical knowledge, expertise and intersections with decolonization and the end of the Cold War

– ABSTRACTS –

Historical geographies of the “quantitative revolution”: Towards a transnational history of central place theory

Geography’s “quantitative revolution” has been a true textbook chronicle in the discipline’s canonical history. However, historical research has only recently seriously begun to unravel the geographical contexts of its emergence, which is complicated by the simplified narratives that emerged in critical revisionism from the 1970s. This paper offers an interpretative framework from the perspective of the historical geographies of scientific knowledge (HGSK), by focusing on Christaller’s central place theory (CPT) to deconstruct the common Anglo-American narrative, arguing that it has concealed other contexts in the “Second” and “Third” worlds. Early applications (especially in Germany, Poland, Netherlands, Israel) and the wider European discourse of “central places” call for a reevaluation of the canonized narratives of CPT. The globalization of CPT is interpreted through the rising American hegemony in the early Cold War era, which led to the Americanization of German location theories in modernization theory discourse. Networks behind the American, British and Canadian centres show the importance of European locations, such as the Swedish hub in Lund, and the “planning laboratories” of Asian, South American and African contexts after decolonization. Soviet and Eastern Bloc reformism and the institutionalization of regional planning from the late 1950s summoned CPT in the service of centralized state planning, and ignited debates of adaptability between “socialist” and “capitalist” contexts. By reflecting on some of these cases, this paper argues for a transnational history of CPT by readdressing issues of narrativity and historical periodization, and shows the need for provincializing and decolonizing dominant Anglo-American geographical knowledge production.

 

“The Ghana job”: Opening Hungary to the developing world

Based on interviews, archival and media sources, this paper looks at how post-WWII socialist Hungary developed foreign economic relations with decolonized countries, by focusing on the emergence of Hungarian development and area studies and development advocacy expertise towards developing countries. The paper’s case study is the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (CAAR) founded at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1963 – from 1973 the Institute for World Economy (IWE) – parallel to similar institutions founded in the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc states. CAAR was established as a government think tank by József Bognár, a close friend to Prime Minister János Kádár and perhaps one of the most important figures in socialist era Hungarian reform economics and foreign policy-making. The institute rose as a consequence of the “Ghana job”: Hungarian economists led by Bognár developed the First Seven-Year Plan of Ghana in 1962. The associates of CAAR and IWE promoted export-oriented growth against import-substitution industrialization and summoned geographical development concepts such as “poorly developed countries”, “dependency”, “semiperiphery”, “open economies”, or “small countries” as alternatives to the Cold War categories of “capitalist” and “socialist” world systems. This shift in geographical knowledge production is connected to the geopolitical contexts of the Sino-Soviet split, the Khrushchevian “opening up” of foreign relations, the emergence of the “Third World”, and also the 1956 revolution in the case of Hungary. The role of Ghana and the Eastern Bloc is connected to the 1960s wave of transnational development consultancy and strategies of “socialist globalization”.

Hungary and Ghana, 1950s-1960s

21083554_1409636279072924_5180471301300472123_oMy research report to the Open Society Archives turned out to be a draft of a lengthy working paper that summarizes some of the materials I have been working with. You can read about my OSA research proposal here.

Even from this vastly text I had to leave out a lot of other materials. Unfortunately I will only have time to work again on this later, so I decided to share here some thoughts that could not be included.

One of the books that were very influential to me (but haven’t included into the draft) gave me a great overview of the early Eastern European relations towards decolonizing/ed Africa (the “Third World”). What I find most interesting is not only the relative autonomy of the Eastern Bloc in developing their foreign relations, but also the continuities between previous colonial era and postcolonial relations. Another issue is the role of China, not only how the Sino-Soviet split influenced the Soviet Union to maintain the relative autonomy of the Eastern Bloc, but also China’s early postcolonial trajectories in gaining a foothold in Africa.

africa_communist

“By 1958, well before substantial new opportunities arose south of the Sahara, East Europe’s trade with Asia, the Middle East, and some parts of Africa was already greater than that of the Soviet Union; ithad more than doubled since 1954 and amounted to approximately five per cent of the area’s total trade. Some of this commercial activity, of course, was no more than a partial return to normal trade patterns that had been interrupted by the war and later inhibited for political and ideological reasons. Yet the very fact that old patterns existed and could be resumed was important, since the arrival of East European traders and governmental representatives in Africa did not appear to the new states as a novel or menacing overture, but rather as a natural resumption of established policies.”

— Robert and Elizabeth Bass: Eastern Europe, in: Zbigniew Brzezinski: Africa and the Communist World, Hoover Institution, 1963, p. 88.

Hungarian development experts worked on the First Seven-Year Plan of Ghana

20993964_1407344005968818_1387830529126103512_nA magyar közgazdász delegáció megérkezése Accrába 1962-ben, hogy kidolgozzák Ghána hétéves tervét. Balról jobbra: Bácskai Tamás (Bognár asszisztense, egyetemi docens), Kós Péter (nagykövet), Kwame Nkrumah (a Ghánai Köztársaság elnöke), Bognár József (főtanácsadó), Székely Gábor (Bognár asszisztense, mérnökközgazdász).

The Hungarian delegation of economists arrive in Accra to develop Ghana’s First Seven-Year Plan in 1962. From left to right: Tamás Bácskai (Bognár’s assistant, associate professor), Péter Kós (first ambassador), Kwame Nkrumah (President of the Republic of Ghana), József Bognár (chief advisor), Gábor Székely (Bognár’s assistant, economic engineer).

Magyar Hírek, 1962. május 1.

Speaking from the Semi-Periphery: Decolonizing Geographical Knowledge Production in Socialist Hungary, 1960s to 1980s

In recent months I’ve prepared a new research plan/paper on the stuff I’ve been doing, connected to my work in the 1989 After 1989 project:

The “spatial turn” in the history of scientific knowledge has called into question abstract notions of scientific development and specifically national disciplinary and institutional narratives. The past two decades has seen a growing number of studies in the historical geographies of scientific knowledge (HGSK), aiming to understand where knowledge is produced and disseminated, and how the content of knowledge changes in motion and adapts to local contexts and social interests (Livingstone 2003; Powell 2007; Withers 2009). Recently, increased globalization has summoned an upsurge of research focusing on interconnectedness through knowledge networks and circulations, transnational histories and global comparative studies, arguing against the “methodological nationalism” of previous research in favour of alternative transnational concepts (Keim et al. 2014; Conrad 2016).

On the other hand, postcolonial and decolonial approaches have contested Eurocentric or Westcentric epistemological frameworks and discursive formations, providing a reassessment of multiple or alternative modernities and elucidating the hierarchical orders of knowledge regimes (Chakrabarty 2007; Boatca and Costa 2012). However, much of this original literature on postcolonialism focused either on the global centre or the former colonial world, silencing in-between semiperipheral contexts such as Eastern Europe under transitory and provincialised terms such as “postsocialism,” while there has been little theorizing between the “posts” (Chari and Verdery 2009). This marginalization process has also led to the concealment of Second-Third World relations and the interdependency of centre and periphery contexts in an interconnected global context (Ward 2010; Mark and Apor 2014).

While the perceived non-colonial background of Eastern Europe provided excuses for many in the region to distance themselves from postcolonial studies (Moore 2001), historical studies have nevertheless shown the existence of long-term structures of hierarchical dependency and East-West “civilizational slopes” even since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment (Wolff 1994), which have well endured into socialist and postsocialist times (Melegh 2006). This continuity is well captured by the self-Orientalizing development and geographical concepts in social science, geography and economic history (Petrovici 2015). These can be exemplified by various contexts: the enduring dichotomies of “Eastern” and “Western” development (Éber et al. 2014), the “catching-up” neoliberalist transitology (Stenning and Hörschelman 2008), the “civilizing mission” of European Union accession (Böröcz and Sarkar 2005), the subaltern adaptation of development policy models, and the uneven reproduction of Western academic hegemony.

This research argues for “decolonizing” diffusionist and neoevolutionist theories that have been appropriated as the dominant narrative of the global centre and imposed upon the Eastern European context (Boatca and Costa 2012). Simultaneously it argues for a global perspective of transnational interconnectedness in understanding Eastern European developments in the production of geographical knowledge. It does so by using contemporary literature in critical geography and international relations, and specifically in postcolonial, decolonial theory and world-systems analysis to deconstruct internalised structures of dependency and global hierarchies inherent in Eastern European geographical epistemologies. By “speaking from the semiperiphery,” it aims to reassemble local knowledge production on global geographical concepts, in light of overlooked global historical interconnectivity between “East” and “West.” The research aims to apply these theoretical insights to understanding how Hungarian reform economists tried to position the country in various global imaginations between the 1960s and 1980s in the context of integrating into the world economy and thus breaking away with Cold War concepts amidst increasing global competition and economic restructuration due to crises.

After World War II, the imperialist and nationalist-revisionist ambitions of the Hungarian state elite crumbled with the demise of the previous “high imperialist” era. The Communist takeover and the process of Sovietization created a new setting under the imperial and colonial influence of the Soviet Union, and a rise of economist experts succeeding the pre-WWII primacy of geographers. Stalinist orthodoxy summoned a dichotomous Cold War imagination of separate “capitalist” and “socialist” worlds, soon to be called “world systems,” while the production of geographical knowledge and textbooks on regional geography also followed this essential dichotomy. But the détente period after de-Stalinisation and the gradual opening up of diplomatic and trade relations due to an economic upturn in the world economy and the process of decolonisation led to reconfigurations in global geographical and development imaginations.

The maintaining of the Eastern European “buffer zone” necessitated the Soviet Union to foster trade relations both with the West and the so-called Third World. Eastern European reformers in Poland and Hungary pushed towards “market socialism”, as acquiring advanced technology and foreign currency from the West implied finding ways to finance development either through foreign loans or export-oriented growth, and facilitated exporting expertise and investments into the Third World and searching for state-led development models abroad, such as in Spain, South Korea and Chile (Bockman, Feygin and Mark forthcoming). These reformist ambitions generated a virulent debate and the emergence of new geographical concepts connected to the country’s shifting foreign trade policies and lobbying activity in international organizations (UN, UNCTAD, GATT) in order to manoeuvre between “East” and “West.”

While the concept of the “Third World” was disregarded by Eastern European socialist countries, they aimed to reposition themselves between “developed” and “undeveloped” countries in an urge to “catch up” with the West. By the 1970s in Hungary, some new concepts such as “semi-periphery,” “small economies” (Kádár 1971), “open economies” (Kozma 1980) had emerged in the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (1965-) and the Institute for World Economy (1973-) at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which consequently developed the new field of area studies. In turn, some Western concepts, such as Wallersteinian world-systems analysis and the concept of “semiperiphery” were influenced by Eastern European economic historiography. In later developments, the series of Fejlődés-tanulmányok [Development Studies] published in 1978–1989 and journals such as Világtörténet [World History] introduced the new fields of development studies, world-systems analysis, centre-periphery thinking and postcolonial theory into the fields of area studies and international relations.

This research thus aims to understand through historical materials of scientific publications and policy papers connected to these institutions how alternative geographical conceptions of socialist globalization emerged and permeated global imaginations in area studies. The theoretical-methodological novelty of this research lies in connecting the approaches of transnational or global history, political economy and the history of ideas: Hungarian semiperipheral knowledge production is conceptualised in the interconnected contexts of centre-periphery relations.

References

Boatca, M., Costa, S. (2012): Postcolonial Sociology: A Research Agenda. In: Rodríguez, E. G., Boatca, M. (eds.): Decolonizing European Sociology: Transdisciplinary Approaches. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate Publishing.

Bockman, J., Feygin, Y., Mark, J. (forthcoming): The Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Alternative Globalisations 1950s–1980s. Manuscript.

Böröcz, J., Sarkar, M. (2005): What is the EU? International Sociology, 20(2): 153–173.

Chakrabarty, D. (2007): Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Chari, S., Verdery, K. (2009): Thinking Between the Posts: Postcolonialism, Postsocialism, and Ethnography after the Cold War. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 51(1): 6–34.

Conrad, S. (2016): What is Global History? Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Éber, M., Gagyi, Á., Gerőcs, T., Jelinek, C., Pinkasz, A. (2014): 1989: Szempontok a rendszerváltozás globális politikai gazdaságtanához. Fordulat, 21.: 10–63.

Gille, Z. (2010): Is there a Global Postsocialist Condition? Global Society, 24(1): 9–30.

Kádár, B. (1971): Kis országok a világgazdaságban. Budapest: Közgazdasági és Jogi Könyvkiadó.

Keim, W., Celik, E., Erche, C., Wöhrer, V. (eds.)(2014): Global Knowledge Production in the Social Sciences: Made in Circulation. Corchester (UK): Ashgate.

Kozma, F. (1980): A nyitott szerkezetű gazdaság. Budapest: Kossuth.

Livingstone, D. N. (2003): Putting Science in its Place: Geographies of Scientific Knowledge. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mark, J., Apor, P. (2014): Socialism Goes Global: Decolonization and the Making of a New Culture of Internationalism in Socialist Hungary, 1956–1989. The Journal of Modern History, 87: 852–891.

Melegh, A. (2006): On the East-West Slope: Globalization, Nationalism, Racism and Discourses on Central and Eastern Europe. Budapest: CEU Press.

Moore, D. C. (2001): Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique. PMLA, 116(1): 111–128.

Petrovici, N. (2015): Framing Criticism and Knowledge Production in Semi-peripheries: Post-socialism Unpacked. Intersections, 1(2):

Powell, R. C. (2007): Geographies of Science: Histories, Localities, Practices, Futures. Progress in Human Geography, 31(3): 309–329.

Stenning, A., Hörschelman, K. (2008): History, Geography and Difference in the Post-Socialist World: Or, Do We Still Need Post-Socialism? Antipode, 40(2): 312–335.

Ward, S. (2010): Transnational Planners in a Postcolonial World. In: Healey, P., Upton, R. (eds.): Crossing Borders: International Exchange and Planning Practices. London and New York: Routledge. 47–72.

Withers, C. W. J. (2009): Place and the “Spatial Turn” in Geography and in History. Journal of the History of Ideas, 70(4): 637–658.

Wolff, L. (1994): Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment. Stanford University Press.

Deconstructing Cold War ideology in Powers of Ten

Introduction and argument

Powers of Ten is a highly influential short ’documentary-style’ movie directed in 1977 by life partners Charles and Ray Eames (dir. 1977). Through its 9 minutes we are assisted by a narrator in our journey to explore the vast scales of the universe, as we lift up vertically from a man lying asleep in a picnic scene in Chicago into outer space, and as we reach the perimeters of material existence, a replay starts and we then suddenly plunge back into the deeper levels of the man’s body, accross tissue, cells, DNA and finally terminating at the level of subatomic particles. The film gets its name from the fact that we are moving through the mathematical orders of magnitude of the powers of ten on a logarithmic scale (which makes our movement seemingly linear in time), with every ten seconds reaching ten times greater (or smaller) altitudes and frames of vision than in our previous positions. This film is an interpretation of a small educational book, Cosmic View by Dutch author Kees Boeke (1957), which used pictoral ’snapshots’ of different levels in the journey.

kees_boeke_FINAL

Boeke’s graphics of levels of magnitude (Boeke 1957)

Powers of Ten is actually two movies, since the Eameses created its first ’sketch’ version in 1968 with a more telling title of A Rough Sketch for a Proposed Film Dealing with the Powers of Ten and the Relative Size of Things in the Universe (hereafter: Rough Sketch; dir. 1968)[1]. Scientific representations such as these have significant impact on forming popular culture and opinion through their circuits of culture (Burgess and Gold 1985; Du Gay 1997; Cloke et al. 2004: 104). This film quickly became very popular and was widely distributed as educational material, even quite recently it has been circulating on the internet in a new, „updated”, web-based remake version as an interactive application (Huang 2012), but there is also a blog on the film (Powers of Ten Blog 2012), and an interesting interpretation trying to transpose its idea onto Earth’s history (Long Now 2012), and it has even been distributed widely by geographers (e.g. on the list server for critical geography). As for my personal application, during a workshop on critical urban studies in Hungary, which became „invaded” by critical geographers such as myself, I held a class on the topic of scale, where I used the film as a demonstration by deconstructing its underlying narratives, drawing heavily on Mark Dorrian’s recent article in a magazine (Dorrian 2012).

My argument will be that the film should not be evaluated as just a useful and impressive demonstration of proportions and scale in the world, but can in fact only be understood in the light of its original Cold War techno-political context and as a vehicle for a certain type of geographical knowledge and imagination (Gregory 1994; 1995). The film is a manifestation of the close connections between different technologies and knowledge, as Cold War ’technoscience’ rested on great investments and developments in instruments of perception and quantification, machines of calculation (computation), modelling, manipulation and space science, and also a certain positivistic ideology of science. In analysing the film, I will be ’reading it out’ as a text (Chatman 1978: 41-42), decoding signifiers from its semiotic landscape and deconstructing its master-narrative in order to unfold the specific cultural, political and ideological messages it is trying to address to the viewer (see Jackson 1989: 47–54). In this analysis, I am drawing heavily on semiotics and theories of narrativity, especially on film and media (Chatman 1978; 1990; Currie 1998; Lothe 2000; Mitry 2000), another important resource is the philosophy of poststructuralism (Said 2003; Derrida 1993; 1998) and resources explaining contextual background relations in which the film should be placed.

A glimpse of the Cold War context

Powers of Ten was one of the directors’ final films. The Eameses had good relations with contemporary US mega-corporations, and were also ingenious designers of consumer goods of modern technology of their time. As Dorrian (2012) describes, their whole activity followed the shift from a modernist economy of consumer goods to a postmodernist economy of sign production. Apart from Powers of Ten, they also created for IBM an educational-cum-ideological film on computer technology, The Information Machine (dir. 1958). They even made an installation called Glimpses of the USA (dir. 1959), which was one of the main attractions representing American society at the American National Exhibition in Moscow (coordinated by the United States Information Agency), and where the famous ’kitchen debate’ between the capitalist USA and the communist USSR took place. Therefore, the directors’ activity and the meanings entailed in their products can only be understood in the geopolitically contested epistemological (Edwards 1996) and regulating (Du Gay 1997) context of the Cold War era.

The symbolic setting of the picnic scene

Although the opening few seconds of a couple having a picnic seems rather secondary for the whole framework of the film and relatively unimportant after the unfolding immensity of surrounding global (subhuman) space (other versions used different opening settings; Boeke 1957; Eames and Eames dir. 1968; Szasz dir. 1968), it is key in understanding the film’s whole message, because it develops the setting for our long travel in carefully planted symbolics.

PowersTen_NEW_FINAL

The picnic scene

As Dorrian (2012) highlights it, on the blanket there lies a book, Voices of Time (1966), edited by J. T. Fraser, a contemporary physicist and social scientist, which is about the philosophy of time, and which also has a mandala on its cover. However, as Dorrian notes, this title is also identical to a science-fiction novel by J. G. Ballard, The Voices of Time and Other Stories, where the main character is a scientist interestingly called Powers, who is suffering from a fatal ’narcoma syndrome’, seeing numbers of a catastrophic countdown, and following the dystopic visionary of the story, he eventually falls asleep (just as the man in the picnic) for eternity in the middle of a mandala, where his mind dissolves into the universe. There are other less complex signifiers showing the importance of time: below the book is another one with a cover of a large clock, and the man’s wristwatch is also pointing directly towards us. There are also two magazines, Scientific American and Science, both prominent works of ’high’ science, which not only suggest the ’sleep into reason’, as Dorrian shows, but also point to the national scientific regime we are being subjected to, since these are symbols of the actual producers of the knowledge and technology which will enable us our space travel and to perceive underlying entities of the physical world. Becoming subject to these powers, we become the subjects of technology, which is in the forefront of Cold War imperialism, as science became a ’national project’. But in my view, not just the symbolic setting, the camera angle is also important: for just a few seconds, but we see the couple from a horizontal, lively perspective, quite close to us, their faces happy. As the narrator describes, „the picnic near the lakeside of Chicago was a start of a lazy afternoon, early one October” (Eames and Eames dir. 1977). Getting into such rich subjective detail serves to relax the viewers mind, and opens the plot, showing the raw material of which the rationally measured compartmentalizing would work with. Dorrian (2012) tellingly notes, that the outward zoom is a „vertiginous, abyssal collapse of the everyday reality”, but here this reality is also the asymmetric ’Other’ of the narrative (Said 2003), the aporia of the text, where the dichotomy could be contrasted with and broken up against the logocentric master-narrative of the film (Derrida 1993; 1998). We might say that sensual place itself, as the ’world of humans’ is represented in the picnic scene, which will be devoured by the infinite, progressive space of eternal material existence and mathematical rationality (see e.g. Agnew 2005).

The master-narrative of the plot: travel in space and time

When we lift off, the fixed framing and the stable movement of the camera suggests that we are not in control, rather we are following the lead of technology, it is like we are riding a rocket. In fact Rough Sketch is much more revealing, since the camera starts from Florida, the ’emblematic point of departure for the Apollo missions’ (Dorrian 2012). The role of the narrator is crucial, since it supplements the narrative effects of the medium of visuality with an oral guidance on identifying the entities which are unfolding (Lothe 2000: 41), therefore the viewer is given a structured sequence (Chatman 1978: 30). This narration helps to form a story guideline, but also strengthens the film’s documentary style (it is in present tense), contrary to it being actually a fiction. This is necessary because the entities presented, although exist in reality, are fictious in the sense that they are graphic representations, and are carved out of reality by the language of science, thus appearing as holistic forms, Gestalts on the screen. Behind his seemingly passive observer image, the narrator therefore has complete control and power over events and ’sees through’ the linear scales, he is in the ’God’s eye’ view of the camera – he is more our pilot in the rocket ride, the spokesperson of technology, native to the unfolding new world.

In the film, scale is represented as a continuous, relative immanent substance, which cuts right through and reorders the physical reality of the world in mathematical proportions. The previously ’destructed’ reality thus becomes measurable, and this measurement in advance gives it meaning for abstract consciousness by making it rationally observable and explainable. The importance of vision is crucial here, for we are presented with a mirror-reflection of reality (we are presented with facts, concealing the apparatus and locally produced knowledge used to create these particular representations of reality), and the linearity develops an intimate linkage between thought and vision (Burnett 1995: 3–14). The film builds on a masculinist disembodiment, a modernist detachment of senses (touch, smell, hearing), we measure solely with our eyes, to „a position in which the body devolves into the eye, and vision shifts from exploration to consumption, from the insecurities of watching to a fixed gaze.” (Burnett 1995: 5) This ’cartographic rationality’ of holistic depiction is enforced by the ideology of vision (Cosgrove 2003; 2006), and since the film is only ’one cut’, we are locked in a bounded, striated space that only seemingly opens. The linearity and ’God’s eye’ ’view from nowhere and from everywhere’ of the camera serves to naturalize this idea of scaling order by the ’God-trick’ (Haraway 1988) of enmeshing human relations into an abstract totality, and subjecting human life to this overarching Cartesian anxiety of a geometrized order (Bernstein 1983), which is a product of a particular kind of embodied vision and technological regime (as in other cases of abstract space and the geometries linear perspective: Cosgrove 2003; 2006; Olwig 2002). I should remark here, concerning geographical knowledge production, that in geography, „quantifiers” were drawing on this same relativity rising from systems theory to question the „absolute” space of previous regional geography, the one this film is also to defute, presenting a „relative” space (see e.g. Barnes 1996). Regions, fixed and particular areas of human culture (Chicago, America, Earth) are broken up by a scientistic master-narrative of mathematical manipulation and computation.

 

2

Chicago

1

Leaving Planet Earth

But if scale brings relativity and is continuous, are there scalar levels, which have autonomous ontological fields of existence? Through this travel, we meet in every enmeshed ’step at a ten’ with a new world of beings, the narrator marking them out from the linear rush: atoms, cells, galaxies etc. (Eames and Eames dir. 1977). These are the entities of the natural sciences, and foremost physics – this shows the uneven importance of different sciences in the period, and especially the high dominance of physics. This Cold War picture of ’big science’ still sits strong in today’s perceived image, and since physics deals with the ’grand scales’ of our universe (from atom to universe), the whole travel is a hymn for this ideology. As Dorrian (2012) rightly concludes, there is a circular narrative along the curve connecting the two points of the (starting) outer space of space and the (ending) inner space of the subatomic level, which practically devour and dominate the tiny level of human existence (see Appendices 5. and 6.). This rythm also creates a sense of wholeness (Mitry 2000: 221–223), which universalizes and naturalizes the specific idea of scale.

4

The void

5

The subatom level

There is also a sort of colonial narrative running underneath, since the ’opening up’ function of mathematics and the ’looking down’ vertical angles enforce an urge for adventure and conquest into the newly unfolding ’void’ but ’energetic’ worlds (Gregory 1994), therefore supporting a masculine narrative of control and manipulation (Haraway 1988), which fits well with the ideology of the Cold War nation-state subjecting people under the infinite progress of science and technology (Edwards 1996). This idea of progress connects back and associates to the temporal symbolics of the picnic scene, since the travel in space is a travel in time as in the seemingly proportional spatial travel we are actually accelerating outwards (in fact, in Rough Sketch, there are counters on the left of the screen measuring Earth and space time), and when diving into subhuman levels, the ’world of atoms’ show a speeded-up environment of a futuristic utopia. And this in all closes the circle.

Conclusions

In my view, Powers of Ten represents a Cold War ideology of science, where the subject of the individual becomes interpellated through the ideology of technology and mathematical rationality to the nation-state (Currie 1998: 17–32). Narrativity is substantial in constituting the subject through repetition, as

„it repeats and confirms the possibilities of identification that have already constituted our subjectivities. This is more than claiming that narrative reflects life. It is saying that narrative is one of the ways in which identity, the ideological subject, is manufactured.” (Currie 1998: 32)

The travel through space is a travel through space-time with an embedded hierarchy of space dominating over place and time dominating over space, showing a futuristic-utopistic mentality, which aims the subject towards the missionary conquest of space travel. The void of outer and inner space resemble to a modernist open space of free manipulation and colonial conquest, as man brings order to everyday-life reality through mediating abstract space. The conception of scale is epistemologically constructed through human relations (see Herod 2011), and the geometrized vision of scale presented here is a specific construction universalized through a careful association of signifiers.

 

REFERENCES

Agnew, J. (2005) Space : Place. In: Cloke, Paul – Johnston, Ron J. (eds.) Spaces of Geographical Thought: Deconstructing Geography’s Binaries. Sage, London – Thousand Oaks – New Delhi, 81–96.

Barnes, T. J. (1996) Logics of dislocation: Models, metaphors, and meanings of economic space. The Guilford Press, New York and London.

Bernstein, R. (1983) Beyond objectivism and relativism: science, hermeneutics, and praxis. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.

Boeke, K. (1957) Cosmic view: The universe in forty jumps. The John Day Company, New York.

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NOTES

[1] Curiously there is also a Canadian version of the same idea, Cosmic View, which is more explicitly based on Boeke’s book, uses more sketchy drawings than realistic, documentary-like images, has a more pleasant music instead of futuristic sci-fi themes, and goes without a narrator (Szasz dir. 1968). Even more curiously, there is a very modern reinterpretation of this idea produced by IMAX, Cosmic Voyage (Silleck dir. 1996), where the narrator is the Hollywood star Morgan Freeman. I have used Powers of Ten as the demonstration of this ’idea’ for several reasons, but above all because of the delicate symbolics that are developed in the movie, as against other interpretations.