Douglas Rushkoff and Renaissance Cartography
Liberate the Mind has an excerpt from Douglas Rushkoff’s new book, Life Inc., a history of corporatism, which has the following relevant passage (which opens by declaring that Prince Henry the Navigator was no navigator).
Royals went map crazy. Cartography was as much the rage in the Renaissance as MapQuest and Google Earth are today. Nearly every ship had a cartographer aboard to map new regions of the world and, of course, label them as belonging to whichever kingdom had chartered the voyage. Mapping a territory meant documenting one’s control of it — whatever the reality might have been on the ground. Eventually, the mapmaking fetish turned inward as well, as monarchs attempted to map the entirety of Europe and determine who owned exactly what. By 1427, a Danish cartographer working in Rome had developed the first known map of northern Europe. In 1507, the voyages of the Florentine seaman Amerigo Vespucci resulted in the first maps of “America,” showing two distinct continents separated from Asia.
With the physicality of the world represented in maps, and the exploitation of these maps arranged by charter, monarchs were at least two steps removed from the results of their actions — actions already undertaken with a cool logic defined by scientific rationalism. This disconnect characterized the colonial era, and determined the bias with which we treat our physical surroundings to this day. Place became property.
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