Posts Tagged ‘1984’
We expect maps to tell us the truth. That is their eternal promise. But maps can’t help lying to us. That is their original sin. To be more precise: the map’s lie (or sin) is one of omission. They show us just one version of the truth, carefully edited by the cartographer.
This map does one better: it gives us not one but two versions of reality. Both are contained within the same frame, staged on a single world, denoted by an identical set of shading. All you need to do is tilt the image a quarter turn, and the cartographic form reveals an alternate version of the truth, while remaining entirely commensurate with the first one.
Clever and simple, as most brilliant things are.
The map shows you the world as it is in Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s political parable of a dystopian future (he wrote it in 1948) in which the world is dominated by three totalitarian superstates.
The book is set in Airstrip One, “once called England or Britain”, a province of Oceania. This superstate covers North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa and large parts of middle and western Africa.
The second superstate is Eurasia, which covers continental Europe, Russia all the way to the Bering Strait, a small sliver of North Africa and a big chunk of the Middle East and Central Asia. The smallest superpower, at least in area, is Eastasia, essentially China, Japan, Korea and the northern half of the Indian subcontinent.
These three superstates are engaged in a war for global dominance. The battle is fought in two contested zones: the Polar Front, covering the North Pole plus northern Greenland and bits northern Canada and Siberia; and the Equatorial Front, a zone stretching from North Africa via the Arabian peninsula and the southern half of the Indian subcontinent all the way to New Guinea.
No single superstate is strong enough to win a victory on its own. So one superstate allies itself with another against the third. But no single superstate is weak enough to be defeated by the other two. With alliances shifting over time according to perceived strategic advantages, this is an eternal war…
Winston Smith, Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s protagonist, works at the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to eradicate newly inconvenient truths from photos, newspaper archives and encyclopaedia entries. All evidence of what was previously self-evident and true must be destroyed by throwing it in the Memory Hole.
This map, by pointing out the before and after simultaneously, would have been tantamount to blasphemy. But, by pointing out the similarities between two opposites, it hints at the frightening ease with which an audience preconditioned to Doublethink can process cognitive dissonance in accordance with the ruling ideology.
Or, as David Kendall, who found this map here on The Visual Telling of Stories, puts it rather more straightforwardly: “You tell me that isn’t the most clever use of shading, orthography, and legend placement to ever grace the printed page.”
Read the whole story at “Orwellian Cartography 101: How to Tell Two Truths with One Map“… and remember: the map is not the territory.
* William Irwin Thompson
As we toe the line, we might spare a thought for Orwell’s critical antagonist, Evelyn Waugh; he died on this date in 1966. A prolific journalist and writer of non-fiction, Waugh is best remembered as a novelist (e.g., Decline and Fall, A Handful of Dust, Brideshead Revisited, and his trilogy of Second World War novels, Sword of Honour. Waugh was a “difficult” man; writer James Lees-Milne judged him “the nastiest-tempered man in England.” Indeed, when asked by Nancy Mitford how he reconciled his often objectionable conduct with being a Christian, he replied that “were he not a Christian he would be even more horrible.” On his passing, long-time acquaintance and photographer-to-the-stars Cecil Beaton reckoned that Waugh “died of snobbery,” observing that “his abiding complex and the source of much of his misery was that he was not a six-foot tall, extremely handsome & rich duke.”
Readers may well have seen this photo, which has been making its way across the web:
If the irony seems too perfect, it’s because it is… It is a crop of this photo:
So, if the image isn’t, after all, an “actual” evocation of Orwell’s Oceania, it is a pretty powerful portrait of “Big Brother”…
Still, it may be that Orwell’s worries, while all-too-prescient, were less valent than Huxley’s– that our challenge isn’t so much the fear-infected world of 1984 as it is the soma-laced, desire-driven future of Brave New World:
Orwell was almost exactly wrong in a strange way. He thought the world would end with Big Brother watching us, but it ended with us watching Big Brother.
As we practice our newspeak, we might recall that it was on this date in 1943 that the “White Rose,” a student protest group, painted “Freedom” and “Down with Hitler” on the walls of the University of Munich. The leaders of the group were arrested two days later, and beheaded on February 22.
Hans Scholl, his sister Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst- leaders of the White Rose (source)
Readers may recall your correspondent’s respect and affection for the extraordinary novella Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions– so won’t be surprised that he’s excited to discover the work of Vi Hart.
Hart is an artist and composer with a gift for using mundane materials (like balloons) to illustrate abstruse concepts. Her most recent creation is a wonderful animation of Flatland… on a moebius strip.
[TotH to BrainPickings]
As we we give up our search for a beginning or an end, we might recall that it was on this date in 1984– two days after it was introduced in an epoch-making commercial during Superbowl XVIII– that the first Apple Macintosh went on sale.
From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
- George Orwell, 1984
China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO), an arm of the Central Propaganda Department, operates an “Internet Affairs Bureau” to oversee all web sites that publish news, both the official sites of news organizations and independents.
This Internet Affairs Bureau sends very specific instructions to all large news web sites, often multiple times per day. Sometimes these instructions ban contents outright, but often they instruct web sites to highlight or suppress certain type of opinions or information– in a very detailed manner. Consider these directives (issued March 23, 2010; translated by the China Digital Times):
(The link to “China’s princelings” goes here.)
But technology marches on… these government directives are meant to be confidential. But while they are not showing up on web sites per se in China, some of their recipients– the web editors at whom they are aimed– are using Twitter, Sinaweibo (Sina’s popular micro-blogging service), and other social media to slip them into cyberspace. To wit, the CDT coverage.
It should come as no surprise then that the SCIO is expanding: an “Internet Affairs Bureau 2″ is being established to control social media and other Web 2.0 services driven by user-generated content. (More background on Chinese “management of web content” here.)
As we remark that a vigorous independent media is the infrastructure of democracy, and that it is an issue of some valence not just in China, but essentially everywhere in the world,* we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that a German referendum ratified Deutschland’s armed occupation of the Rhineland earlier that month, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler acted when he did for a variety of reasons, main among them that France, the most directly-affected/threatened other nation, was in internal political and financial disarray, and that Germany was in the midst of an economic crisis of its own, from which the Fuhrer needed a foreign policy distraction… the Chancellor’s timing was good: France’s response was limited to a strongly-worded condemnation, and 99% of the votes cast in the German referendum (44.5 million votes out of 45.5 million registered voters), were in support.