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Coastlines

Perhaps the most prominent—and from the point of view of imperial ambitions the most significant — feature found on maps of new places is the coastline. The continuous line that differentiates a mass of land from water is the indispensable prerequisite of territorial expansion. It is also the geographical generalization — the extrapolation from particular cal- culations of position — that justifies geography in calling itself a science. But the coastline is an artifact of linear thinking, a binary abstraction that corresponds to nothing in nature. This would not matter except that the construction of the coast as ideally thin and oppositional has real-world consequences. As a cut in nature, the coastline becomes the favored site of scientific enquiry, but it is also the place where Western and non-Western people are suddenly exposed to one another. As an imaginary place, quarantined off from the normal comings and goings of social life, it incubates strange, and often fatal, performances. The un- reason of the antics that cluster along its edge points to the madness inherent in thinking and drawing the world digitally.

–Paul Carter, Dark Writing: Geography, Performance, Design