Aeroscopics: Cartographic Spectacles from Panorama to Film


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Film and Media


The aerial view was widely democratized prior to commercial flight. This media archaeology details the practice of terrestrial aerial views presented as cartographic spectacles in the long nineteenth century. The project considers panorama paintings that reproduced the view from above; models of cities that served as proxies for a balloon view; observation rides that provided slow-moving, elevated vistas of cities; and filmic simulations of flight in the earliest years of cinema. Although these bird’s-eye art forms have largely been forgotten, this project, based on extensive archival research, resurrects these lacunae as “aeroscopics.” Aeroscopics fundamentally skew the epistemology of the cartographic: time slows, scale shifts, and what was a quality of observation becomes instead intoxication. This interdisciplinary investigation into “old media” has implications for the new, answering a fundamental question: how do cultures mediate technological disorientation?