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2013 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

Mapping Orbit: Toward a Vertical Public Space

Author: Lisa Parks

Published in: Public Space, Media Space

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan UK


Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map (Figure 3.1) first surfaced as a sketch in 1927 entitled “One-Town World.” A decade and a half later, in 1943, Life magazine published a refined version of it called the “Air Ocean World map.” By 1954 the Dymaxion Air Ocean World map had become the full expression of what Fuller referred to as “Spaceship Earth” (Marks, 1960, p. 50). As it circulated, one of Fuller’s biographers explains, “many geographic facts, not usually observed, became dramatically apparent” (ibid., p. 50). The final version of the map represents the planet as an island in one ocean without any visible distortion of the relative shapes and sizes of the land areas and without splitting any continents. It is relevant to the mapping of orbit for several reasons. First, it exemplifies an experimental and conceptual approach to the mapping of earth that challenges methods and assumptions of traditional cartography, which tend to reinforce elements that divide societies, obscuring the relational patterns emerging from processes of globalization. Second, it foregrounds principles of contiguity and integration by presenting the earth, air and oceans as continuous domains, and in so doing implies that change in one inevitably affects conditions in another. Third, it became a template for the demonstration and analysis of the unequal distribution and use of world energy resources, and thus articulated broader global political, economic and environmental concerns (ibid., pp. 50-53). Finally, the map changed the ways in which the public thought about the world as well as the ways in which geographers thought about mapping it.

Mapping Orbit: Toward a Vertical Public Space
Lisa Parks
Copyright Year
Palgrave Macmillan UK