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A Mirror of Our World: Google Earth and the History of Cartography

Author(s): Allen, David Y.

Journal: Coordinates : Online Journal of the Map and Geography Round Table of the American Library Association. Series B
ISSN 1553-3255

Issue: 12;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: Google Earth | history of cartography | maps | atlases | virtual reality | mimesis | representation | mirror worlds | simulacra

Google Earth is widely admired as one of the most advanced and powerful products of modern computerized cartography. It has been praised as a revolutionary new way of viewing the earth, as the first convincing attempt at a mirror-world or a simulacrum of the earth. Nonetheless, Google Earth is deeply rooted in the practices and conventions of Western cartography. This article examines what is new and what is old in Google Earth. It especially focuses on the extent to which Google Earth constitutes a mirror world, and on the philosophical meaning and validity of such concepts as cartographic mirroring and representation. It also speculates about the possible future development of Google Earth and similar efforts to mirror the world in digital form.
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