Two serendipitous things happened today.
Toby sent me an article on a plan in the works where three different companies, one Russian, one Canadian and one American, are all investing heavily into laying down high speed fiber optic cables that would traverse the arctic circle and provide much faster connections between the US, Western Europe and Japan. Despite the huge investment and undertaking (each cable is estimated to cost between $600 million and $1.5 billion each, and will reduce latency between London and Tokyo by 30%), this is only possible due to global warming and polar ice caps receding significantly in the last few years.
I believe that this cable, this story, really brings together the connections between the financial system and the environment that I’ve been trying to deal with in more metaphorical ways (with the Unity landscape). Currently, I’m trying to figure out how to relate the speed gained by investing billions into these cables, an idea only made possible by human impact on our planet, and the effects that the financial system (and the infrastructural feats we are willing to do in its name) will continue to have on the environment. Here is the map of the planned cable.
I also met with Heather earlier in the day about my paper topic for her research studio class and my thesis project. Since I haven’t actually completed the projects I want to make, I can’t necessarily write the artist’s paper she had in mind for me. I still want to frame what I’ve been researching in that vein, but I may have to focus on other artists who have tried to do similar things.
So that got me looking at a book I’ve had for a while called Else/Where: Mapping New Cartographies of Networks and Territories. Flipping through, I came across a diagram that immediately resonated with me in light of the previous map.
The diagram, called “Centers and Peripheries,” was originally made by geographer Denis Retaillé in 1992, but included in a 1994 volume on the “globalization of capital” by the economist François Chesnais. In his chapter “Counter Cartographies” Brian Holmes discusses the map.
This map shows three things. First, a circuit linking the United States, Western Europe and Japan, the so-called “Triad” regions, which form a “global oligopoly” accounting for the majority of industrial and financial exchanges. Second, the major nodes of the world network, represented by densely outlined circles. And third, the hierarchical relations between the regions, as described with these categories: center; periphery integrated to the center; annexed periphery; exploited periphery; abandoned periphery. Chesnais performs a Marxist analysis, showing how globally fragmented production lines are coordinated through the computerized circuits of the financial sphere. His map describes the hierarchy of social relations in a post-national era, when no political formation can erect any substantial barrier to the dictates of capital. And it reveals the near-perfect correlation between the graph of virtual flows and the geography of human exploitation.
I need to think about the relationship of these diagrams a bit more, but it’s as if one is predicting the existence of the other.