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Buckminster Fuller’s Map of the World: The Innovation that Revolutionized Map Design (1943)

in Design, Maps | February 20th, 2017

Last week we brought you news of a world map purportedly more accurate than any to date, designed by Japanese architect and artist Hajime Narukawa. The map, called the AuthaGraph, updates a centuries-old method of turning the globe into a flat surface by first converting it to a cylinder. Winner of Japan’s Good Design Grand Award, it serves as both a brilliant design solution and an update to our outmoded conceptions of world geography.

But as some readers have pointed out, the AuthaGraph also seems to draw quite heavily on an earlier map made by one of the most visionary of theorists and designers, Buckminster Fuller, who in 1943 applied his Dymaxion trademark to the map you see above, which will likely remind you of his most recognizable invention, the Geodesic Dome, “house of the future.”



Whether Narukawa has acknowledged Fuller as an inspiration I cannot say. In any case, 73 years before the AuthaGraph, the Dymaxion Map achieved a similar feat, with similar motivations. As the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) points out, “The Fuller Projection Map is [or was] the only flat map of the entire surface of the Earth which reveals our planet as one island in the ocean, without any visually obvious distortion of the relative shapes and sizes of the land areas, and without splitting any continents.”

Fuller published his map in Life magazine, as a corrective, he said, “for the layman, engrossed in belated, war-taught lessons in geography…. The Dymaxion World map is a means by which he can see the whole world fairly at once.” Fuller, notes Kelsey Campell-Dollaghan at Gizmodo, “intended the Dymaxion World map to serve as a tool for communication and collaboration between nations.”

Fuller believed, writes BFI, that “given a way to visualize the whole planet with greater accuracy, we humans will be better equipped to address challenges as we face our common future aboard Spaceship Earth.” Was he naïve or ahead of his time? We may have had a good laugh at a recent replica of Fuller’s nearly undriveable, “scary as hell,” 1930 Dymaxion Car, one of his first inventions. Many of Fuller’s contemporaries also found his work bizarre and impractical. Elizabeth Kolbert at The New Yorker sums up the reception he often received for his “schemes,” which “had the hallucinatory quality associated with science fiction (or mental hospitals).” The commentary seems unfair.

Fuller’s influence on architecture, design, and systems theory has been broad and deep, though many of his designs only resonated long after their debut. He thought of himself as an “anticipatory design scientist,” rather than an inventor, and remarked, “if you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.” In this sense, we must agree that the Dymaxion map was an unqualified success as an inspiration for innovative map design.

In addition to its possibly indirect influence on the AuthaGraph, Fuller’s map has many prominent imitators and sparked “a revolution in mapping,” writes Campbell-Dollaghan. She points us to, among others, the Cryosphere, further up, a Fuller map “arranged based on ice, snow, glaciers, permafrost and ice sheets”; to Dubai-based Emirates airline’s map showing flight routes; and to the “Googlespiel,” an interactive Dymaxion map built by Rehabstudio for Google Developer Day, 2011.

And, just above, we see the Dymaxion Woodocean World map by Nicole Santucci, winner of 2013’s DYMAX REDUX, an “open call to create a new and inspiring interpretation of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map.” You’ll find a handful of other unique submissions at BFI, including the runner-up, Clouds Dymaxion Map, below, by Anne-Gaelle Amiot, an “absolutely beautiful hand-drawn depiction of a reality that is almost always edited from our maps: cloud patterns circling above Earth.”

 

via Gizmodo

Related Content:

Japanese Designers May Have Created the Most Accurate Map of Our World: See the AuthaGraph

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Bertrand Russell & Buckminster Fuller on Why We Should Work Less, and Live & Learn More

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Rarely Seen, Very Early Godard Film Surfaces on YouTube

in Film | February 20th, 2017

Jean-Luc Godard, that living embodiment of the nouvelle vague who did so much to tear down and rebuild the relationship between cinema and its viewers, has kept pushing the boundaries of his art form well into his eighties. But even he had to start somewhere, and up until very recently indeed, Godard enthusiasts looked to his first film Opération béton, a short 1955 documentary on the construction of a Swiss dam that we featured a few years ago, as the starting point of his career as a filmmaker. But most of them surely had more interest in Un Femme coquette, Godard’s second and no doubt more formative first fiction film, a nine-minute adaptation of a Maupassant story hardly ever seen until just last week.

Une Femme coquette is the most elusive rarity of the French New Wave, and possibly the most difficult-to-see film by a name filmmaker that isn’t believed to be irretrievably lost,” wrote A.V. Club critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky in a 2014 piece on his search for it. And so, for decades, nearly everyone who wanted to see Un Femme coquette had to make do with mere descriptions. In his Godard biography Everything Is CinemaNew Yorker critic Richard Brody highlights not only how the filmmaker, in adapting this “tale about a woman who, seeing a prostitute beckon to passing men, decides to try the gesture herself [ … ] turns the necessity of filming cheaply and rapidly, without movie lights, into an aesthetic virtue,” but also how this “film about watching, about trying to live with what one has watched, and about the inherent dangers of doing so” evokes “the perilous path [Godard] was taking as he sought to enter the cinema and anticipates the moral dangers that awaited him there.”

The sudden appearance of Un Femme coquette on “the digital back channels frequented by obscure movie enthusiasts,” as Vishnevetsky puts it, and complete with English subtitles at that, would thrill even a casual Godard fan. As for the BreathlessAlphaville, and Weekend director’s die-hard exegetes, one can only imagine the feelings they, or at least the ones who’ve yet brought themselves to cast eyes upon this sacred text, have experienced while watching it. No matter our level of familiarity with Godard and his work, we can all feel the charge cinema history has given his shoestring-budgeted and at times rough-looking black-and-white short. But who, watching it at one of its sparse early screenings, could have imagined what an aesthetic revolutionary its director, screenwriter, and one-man crew would shortly become — who, that is, besides Jean-Luc Godard?

via AV Club

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Jean-Luc Godard’s Debut, Opération béton (1955) — a Construction Documentary

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Japanese Designers May Have Created the Most Accurate Map of Our World: See the AuthaGraph

in Design, Maps | February 17th, 2017

“The world is not an illusion,” said Alfred Korzbyski, “it is an abstraction.” You may know Korzbyski for another famous maxim, “the map is not the territory.” Jorge Luis Borges took this idea to its most absurd lengths by imagining in his story “On Exactitude in Science” a map that corresponded in size and scale at every point with the territory. Borges, wrote Colin Marshall in a previous Open Culture post, “illustrated the idea that all maps are wrong by imagining the preposterousness of a truly correct one.”

That observation occurs in the context of a video from Vox that explains why it is mathematically impossible to create a completely accurate flat world map at any scale.



We must abstract; “the surface of a sphere cannot be represented as a plane without some form of distortion,” and so cartographers use a technique called “projection.” The design mapmakers have most popularly used dates to 1569, from a cylindrical projection by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator.

For either cultural or navigational reasons, this hugely distorted map inflates the size of Europe and North America and makes Greenland and Africa roughly the same size. A long overdue update, the Peters Projection from 1973, improved the Mercator’s accuracy, but at the cost of legibility and proportion.

But last year, architect and artist Hajime Narukawa of Keio University’s Graduate School of Media and Governance in Tokyo solved these problems with his AuthaGraph World Map, at the top, which won Japan’s Good Design Grand Award, beating out “over 1000 entries in a variety of categories,” writes Mental Floss. You can view it in a larger format here.

Instead of abstracting the globe into a cylinder, then a plane, as the Mercator Projection did, the AuthaGraph turns the earth into a tetrahedron, which then unfolds in any number of ways, as you can see further up, and “can be tessellated just like an MC Escher painting… much in the same way that we can traverse the planet without ever coming to an end.” Rather than one focal point—the North Atlantic in Mercator’s case—nearly any place around the earth can be at the center. Versions of the map are already being used in Japanese textbooks, and you can purchase a poster or buy a paper kit that allows you to unfold your own globe-to-tetrahedron-to-rectangle map (see above).

The video above from Ponder explains the AuthaGraph design, which is not—and could never be—100% mathematically accurate, but can, Narukawa writes, with “a further step” in its subdivisions “be officially called an equal-area map.” The concept was important to him because of the urgent relevance of globalist thinking. As he points out, writes Japanese design blog Spoon & Tamago, “A large bulk of the 20th century was dominated by an emphasis on East and West relations. But with issues like climate change, melting glaciers in Greenland and territorial sea claims, it’s time we establish a new view of the world.” Those in the centers of Eastern and Western power ignore the rest of the world at everyone’s peril. It may help to have a much more equitable way to visualize our shared planet.

 

via Mental Floss

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Japanese Priest Tries to Revive Buddhism by Bringing Techno Music into the Temple: Attend a Psychedelic 23-Minute Service

in Music, Religion | February 17th, 2017

Many religious leaders would like to liven up their services to attract a younger, hipper flock, but few have the necessary background to pull it off in a truly impressive way. Not so for the Japanese Buddhist priest Gyōsen Asakura, who answered the higher calling after a career as a DJ but evidently never lost his feel for the unstoppable pulse of electronic music. Getting behind his decks and donning his headphones once again, he has begun using sound, light, and the original splendor of Fukui City’s Shō-onji temple to hold “techno memorial services.” You can see and hear a bit of one such audiovisual spiritual spectacle in the video just above, shot at a memorial service last fall.

“Buddhism may be approaching something of a crisis point in Japan,” reports Buddhistdoor’s Craig Lewis, “with 27,000 of the country’s 77,000 Buddhist temples forecast to close over the next 25 years, reflecting shrinking populations in small rural communities and a loss of faith in organized religion among the country’s population as a whole.”



He also sites an Asahi Shimbun survey that found 434 temples closed over the past decade and 12,065 Japanese Buddhist temples currently without resident monks. Can this temple in a small city, itself known for its phoenix-like rise from the ashes of the Second World War, do its part to reverse the trend?

Gyōsen Asakura frames his techno memorial services, however incongruous they might at first seem, as in keeping with the traditions of his branch of Pure Land Buddhism. “Originally, golden decorations in the temple are expressions of paradise light,” he told THUMP. “However, the light of a traditional temple has not changed its form from 1000 years ago to use candlelight, even after electricity was invented. I felt doubtful about that, and then I thought about expressing paradise with the latest stage lighting such as 3D mapping.”

After all, as he said to Japankyo, “people used to use the most advanced technologies available to them at the time in order to ornament temples with gold leaf,” so why not harness today’s technology to evoke the Buddhist “world of light” as well? And in any case, ecstatic sensory experiences are nothing new in the realm of faith, though ecstatic sensory experiences of Gyōsen Asakura’s kind do cost money to put together. And so he, in the way of most religious projects the world over, has asked for donations to fund them, using not a bowl but the crowdfunding site Readyfor. Judging by 383,000 yen (more than $3300 U.S. dollars) he’s already raised, quite a few techno-heads have seen the light.

via Electronic Beats

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Rufus Harley, the First Jazz Musician to Make the Bagpipes His Main Instrument, Performs on I’ve Got a Secret (1966)

in Jazz, Music, Television | February 17th, 2017

Musician Rufus Harley did the people of Scotland a great favor when he took up the bagpipes. Like the Loch Ness Monster and haggis, outside its country of origin, the national instrument has evolved into a hackneyed punchline.

What better, more unexpected ambassador for its expanded possibilities than a certified American jazz cat?

He certainly stumped the all-white celebrity panel when he appeared on Steve Allen’s popular TV game show, “I’ve Got a Secret” in 1966.



Politician and former Miss America Bess Myerson’s opening question feels a bit impolitic from a 50 year remove:

Is it how well you play it that’s unusual?

“Yes, definitely,” Harley agrees.

Having quickly sussed out that the instrument in question is a woodwind, the panel cycles through a list of candidates – flute?

Oboe?

Clarinet?

No?

A…sweet potato?

Once they start batting around saxophones, Allen issues a brisk corrective:

He wouldn’t be here tonight if he, you know, just played the saxophone and that was his secret because that wouldn’t be too good a secret. 

Point taken.

Something tells me a white guy in a suit and a tie would have elicited less wonder from the panel upon the revelation that the instrument they failed to guess was the bagpipes.

On the other hand, here is a person of color commanding attention and respect on national television in 1966, two days after the Black Panther Party was officially founded.

Harley had had professional training in the saxophone, oboe, trumpet and flute, but as a bagpiper he was self-taught. As the comments on the video above demonstrate, his unorthodox handling of the instrument continues to confound more traditional pipers. No matter. The sounds he coaxed out of that thing are unlike anything you’re likely to hear on the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond.

At the end of the segment, Harley joined his back up musicians onstage for a live, Latin-inflected cover of “Feeling Good.”

Spotify listeners can enjoy more of Harley’s distinctive piping here.

And just for fun, check out this list of bagpipe terms.There’s more to this instrument than its association with Groundskeeper Willy might suggest.

Related Content:

Hear What is Jazz?: Leonard Bernstein’s Introduction to the Great American Art Form (1956)

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John Cage Performs Water Walk on US Game Show I’ve Got a Secret (1960)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and theater maker whose latest play, Zamboni Godot, is opening in New York City on March 2. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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