Language is communication technology. As Marshall McLuhan said, the spoken word was ‘the first technology by which man was able to let go of his environment in order to grasp it in a new way’.
Language not only describes, but also contributes to the social construct we call ‘reality’ and does so without any wires or silicon involved. When our physical environment takes up the shape of written language, it becomes something of a text to be read, as if our environment starts talking back to us.
Computers and software use the same graphic symbols – in the sense of programming language – as humans do, although in a somewhat different configuration, for communication. Most – if not all – contributors to nextnature.net, are advocates and critics of visual culture. But paradoxically, the tools that produce this visual culture, wouldn’t exist without written language. One tool that made an impact on how our worldview is constructed is Google Earth. It literally brings a new perspective to our world, and from this new perspective our world can be explored in a different way.
The Google Earth Alphabet made by Thomas de Bruijn consists of satellite images of the dutch landscape that feature places which resemble alpabetic characters. The alphabet contains capitals and lowercase characters, as well as numbers and glyphs. High resolution versions of the alphabet can be found on De Bruin’s Flickr photo stream.
Alphabetic shapes in the landscape made visible with visualisation software written in program languages; it seems to create a feedback loop between the world of image and the world of texts.
Map of all the characters of the Google Earth Alphabet in the Netherlands, also on Flickr