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Volume, Depth, and the Ocean Discovery Xprize

Amidst calls for conceptualising the ocean’s depths not simply as a vertical metric but as liquid, dynamic, haptic volume, the newly announced Ocean Discovery Xprize competition is both exciting and disappointing.


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15-article Virtual Special Issue on Political Geography of climate change, for COP21 meeting; free access through February 15

polgeoga7SM9zubTo accompany the COP21 meeting in Paris, Political Geography is making 15 articles on the political geography of climate change available in a Virtual Special Issue which will be available for free access from November 15, 2015 through February 15, 2016. The Virtual Special Issue — ‘Climate Change and Political Geography’ — was compiled by PG editorial board member Simon Dalby, and includes articles from 2007 through the present. Simon has also published a new editorial to introduce the Virtual Special Issue.

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The Martian, Matt Damon, and Outer Space Law

A bit belatedly, after getting a number of ‘Does Matt Damon know what he’s talking about?’ emails, I finally got to see The Martian last night. Since it’s not fair that Klaus Dodds and Rachael Squire get to have all the fun analysing this month’s movies, I thought I’d take a stab at parsing the international law beneath The Martian.


The United Nations meets The Martian

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IBRU hiring fixed-term research associate

IBRU-new-webIBRU, Durham University’s Centre for Borders Research, will be hiring a new research associate, beginning 4 January 2016. The researcher will be expected to initiate her or his own research that broadly aligns with IBRU’s research mission, while also contributing to projects initiated by other academic staff associated with the Centre. For more details, see the full announcement and application instructions.

Although a doctoral degree is desirable, it is not essential, and individuals finishing their PhDs are also encouraged to apply.

Please note that this is a fixed-term fellowship. The assistantship will be for a duration somewhere between 5.5 and 7 months; i.e. it will begin 4 January and end between mid-June and the end of July, with the precise duration still to be determined depending on final funding considerations.

The application deadline is 4 December 2015.

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Materiality and oceans…from a totally different angle

While I’ve long been interested in the materiality of the oceans and the ways in which this materiality is communicated and reproduced through both symbols and practices (e.g. maps, laws, etc.), to date I’ve never really thought about the materiality of the symbols that perform these laws.

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This recent video link from the New York Times, sent to me by Ariell Ahearn, raises these issues. The core question asked here — “What is a flag?” — seems to echo other seemingly arcane but actually quite legally and semiotically significant questions that have been asked over the past few decades, including “What is an island?” and “What is a bridge?”. The judge’s conclusion in this particular case — that a flag needs to be clearly visible, since its purpose is to communicate sovereignty —  is certainly significant for the Ecuadorean drug smugglers being charged. But perhaps in the long term the case’s greatest impact is to remind us that the sea is an assemblage of materialities whose meanings are continually being (re)produced through interactions of laws, practices, and symbolic references.

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Visualising the migrant ‘swarm’

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ways in which our visualisations escape us, and this issue came to a head yesterday when students in my Critical Cartography seminar at Durham alerted me to an article in the Daily Mail on a new map visualising refugee flows to Europe.

Untitled 2The interactive mapping tool, made by the Finnish firm Lucify using UNHCR data, graphically depicts asylum seekers’ origin and destination countries, how asylum-seeker flows have changed over time (from January 2012 to the present), and the net effect that asylum-seeker migrations have had on the populations of individual countries. A very helpful explanatory page on the Lucify website which details the map’s origins, its intent, its methodology, and its limits, concludes that “such a visualization does not only show the scale of the numbers, but also beautifully tells the story of what those numbers mean.”

Or does it?

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Maintaining the Art-Law Balance, Round III

A few years ago, I wrote two posts on this blog [here and here] about the tendency for my speaking engagements to come in pairs, allowing me to serially exercise my right-brain ‘art’ side and my left-brain ‘law’ side, all the while maintaining my geography ‘centre’. It seems like this pattern is continuing. On the art side, last week I gave a presentation at the Perfect and Absolute Blank symposium at the BALTIC contemporary art museum in Gateshead. The symposium, which was organised by Rona Lee of Northumbria University’s Department of Arts, was timed to coincide with the Fiona Tan exhibit currently on display at BALTIC. The video of my talk, which combines a reflection on Tan’s work with some of my earlier research on ocean mapping, is below.

Videos of the other presentations and panel discussions from the symposium can be found on the Baltic Plus video archive website (unfortunately there’s no single page that just gathers videos from the ‘Perfect and Absolute Blank’ symposium; you need to sift through the archives website to find the various videos from the symposium).

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