What sort of image does the planet Earth possess at the opening of the 21st century? If in the 1960s, the Whole Earth, the planet as seen from space, became a cold war, proto-environmentalist icon for a fragile ocean planet, in the 2010s, Google Earth, the globe encountered as a manipulable virtual object on our computer screens, has become an index for multiple and socially various interpretations and interventions; its thicket of satellite images, text legends, and street level photographs can all be tagged, commented upon, modified. In this essay, I examine a kindred image-object, Google Ocean, asking what sort of representation of the planetary sea is in the making in our digital days. Stirring up the century-old classification of signs by semiotician Charles Sanders Peirce, I argue that Google Ocean is a mottled mash of icons, indexes, and symbols of the marine and maritime world as well as a simultaneously dystopian and utopian (that is to say, heterotopian) diagram of the sea - though one that floats in a media ecology that tends to occlude its infrastructural history and conditions of possibility.


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pp. 1211-1242
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