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  • Landscape as Data: From the Classical to the Consumer-Mathematical

    Carolyn L. Kane

    Chapter from the book: Kane, C. 2019. High-Tech Trash: Glitch, Noise, and Aesthetic Failure.


    If the cliche´ about garbage – ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ – is true, its inverse, unfortunately, is not. Heaps and masses of garbage brought into direct view still somehow manage to escape acute recognition, let alone social responsibility or global political activism. This chapter investigates this trend as a growing problem between the human world and representation. Focusing on historical and contemporary landscape photography, the article questions whether data visualization trends, particularly those that attempt to visualize the post-industrial consumer landscape, help or hinder our capacity to understand our environment, and possibly even ecological endeavors. The chapter charts the history of photography’s landscape genre, mapping the contours of a shift from the classical ‘nature’ aesthetic, to an industrial, post-industrial, and eventually a mathematical aesthetic contingent on emergent techniques and data visualization in the attempt to depict ever amassing magnitudes of environmental despoliation. While new approaches to eco-photography adopt data visualization trends to improve the communicative scope of an image, in a growing number of uses, precisely the opposite results: an image incites fear and cognitive breakdown, leaving a viewer incapable of grasping cohesive meanings, let alone undertaking political action.

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    Kane, C. 2019. Landscape as Data: From the Classical to the Consumer-Mathematical. In: Kane, C, High-Tech Trash. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.83.h

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    Published on Dec. 17, 2019