Monday, January 22, 2007

Extreme Geography

by David J. Nemeth (author of Absurdist Cartography: The Dada Millennium Map of the United States)

"Postmodern skepticism thrives on information surfeits, and ambiguous truths are bred wholesale by the speed in the span of cyberspace: this new flexibility in the accumulation of information now feeds a frenzy of popular skepticism about absolute truths that is much deeper and darker than the methodological skepticism in positivist science that continues to invest heavily in their credibilities."

Figure 1

Figure 1 is a metaphorical device that conveys key ideas from this commentary. The mountain fortress of logical positivism is where scientific geography resides, claiming the high moral ground. The horizon of the entire surrounding epistemological landscape constitutes the normal curve, symbolizing the achievement of positivist science's hegemonic quest to universalize and generalize. From its privileged and lofty perspective, positivism presents itself to the world as the single source of scientific truth, the only reliable source of ultimate explanation and the best hope for human happiness. Positivism surveilles all the objects and relationships in a world it observes, names, knows as its unified domain, and attempts to describe in a lucid, straightforward manner. But there is more to language than lucidity. Below, and overshadowed, are the ludic slopes and plains of relativism, where dwell the contextualized, the situated, the localized, and the marginalized truths. Upon these playing fields there are no rules and nothing is alien to geographical investigation from the nomadic perspective of critical relativism. There is no obligation to work, only a desire to experience. The critical poststructuralist position is depicted as exploratory, yet it clings to the same towering outcrop of enlightenment bedrock that secures the positivist position. Critical poststructuralism is a tentative intellectual purchase, or temporary stabilization, between the heights of positivism and the plains of relativism. Its tethered position is no extreme departure from positivist science. In contrast, the critical relativist departure from the positivist stronghold is a flamboyant free fall that invites risky and uncertain exploratory experiences, and perhaps grave outcomes.

"I envision extreme geographers acting on impulse to merge with contemporary youth culture's amorality and indifference, by delving into the mysteries that incite it. To do so merges epistemology with attitude, whereupon moral pluralism becomes unmasked as moral relativism. "

read it


Jorge said...

This is too good! And in some way, scary, too. Be well,

Princess Haiku said...

truth is often ambiguous or at least multi-faceted.