The Road Map to Brave New World: Cartography and Fordism from Gulf Oil to Google


  • Timothy Erik Ström Global Political Economy, RMIT University, Australia



Abstraction, cartography, capitalism, Fordism, Google, technology


This paper explores the shifting practices in and between cartography and capitalism. It compares two road maps of the same territory created one-hundred years apart; a Gulf Oil map from 1915 and a Google Map from 2015. These representations of space serve as entry points into examining some of the larger transformations that have occurred within capitalism over the century. I am interested in how the classic world order of Fordism has been reconstituted by cybernetic capitalism. I argue that the world order has been intensified and reorganised on a more abstract level, with profound subjective and material consequences.


Anderson, Benedict (2006): Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso Books.

Akerman, James R. (ed.) (2006): Cartographies of Travel and Navigation, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Akerman, James R. & Karrow, Robert W. (eds.) (2007): Maps: Finding Our Place in the World, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Arrighi, Giovanni (2010): The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origin of our Times, London: Verso. Benjamin, Walter (2009): One-way Street and Other Writings, London: Penguin Books.

Black, Jeremy (1997): Maps and Politics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Braudel, Fernand (1992): Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century: The perspective of the world, Oakland: University of California Press.

Braverman, Harry (1998): Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century, New York: Monthly Review Press.

Brotton, Jerry (2012): A History of the World in Twelve Maps, London: Penguin Group.

Caudell, Thomas & Mizell, D.W. (1992): "Augmented Reality: An application of heads-up display technology to manual manufacturing processes". 25th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

Chen, Brian X. (2009): If You're Not Seeing Data, You're Not Seeing [Online]. Available: [Accessed 12/10/2016].

Conway, Erik M. and Oreskes, Naomi (2014): The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, New York: Columbia University Press.

Cowen, Deborah (2014): The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Couldry, Nick & Hepp, Andreas (2016): The Mediated Construction of Reality, Cambridge: Polity.

Cramer, Harold 2003. The Early Gulf Road Maps of Pennsylvania, [Accessed 20/9/2017].

Davis, Stacy C.; Diegel, Susan W. & Boundy, Robert G. (2011): Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 30, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy.

Durante, Tommaso (2013): The Symbolic Construction of the Global Imaginary in Sydney and Melbourne. PhD, RMIT University.

Frieden, Jeffry A. (2006): Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century, New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

Fuchs, Christian (2014): Digital Labour and Karl Marx, New York: Routledge.

Fuller, Matthew (ed.) (2008): Software Studies: A Lexicon, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Graeber, David (2012): Debt: The First 5,000 Years, New York: Melville.

Gramsci, Antonio (1971): Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, New York: International Publishers.

Gulf Oil (2017): History of Gulf Oil, [Accessed 20/9/2017].

Harvey, David (1989): The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, Oxford: Basil Blackwell

Harvey, David, (2005): A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Hinkson, John, et al. (eds.) (2016): Cold War to Hot Planet: Fifty Years of Arena, Melbourne: Arena Publications.

Huxley, Aldous (2004): Brave New World Revisited, Edinburgh Gate: Vintage Classics

James, Paul (2006): Globalism, Nationalism, Tribalism: Bringing Theory Back In, London: Sage.

Jansson, André (2013): 'Mediatization and Social Space: Reconstructing Meditization for the Transmedia Age', Communication Theory, 23, 279-96.

Kitchin, Rob & Dodge, Martin (2011): Code/Space: Software and Everyday Life, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Krotz, Friedrich (2009): 'Mediatization: A concept with which to grasp media and societal change'. In K. Lundby (Ed.), Mediatization: Concept, changes, consequences, New York: Peter Lang, 19-36.

Lefebvre, Henri (1991): The Production of Space, Oxford: Blackwell.

Leggett, Theo (2005): 'Ford Fighting to Keep Its Shine' BBC News, [Accessed 20/9/2017].

Lemos, André (2008): 'Mobile communication and new sense of places: a critique of spatialization in cyberculture'. Revista Galáxia, São Paulo, 16, 91-108.

Levinson, Marc (2006): The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Manovich, Lev (2006): The poetics of augmented space. Visual Communication. 5:2.

Manovich, Lev (2013): Software Takes Command, Bloomsbury.

Mattelart, Armand (1996): The Invention of Communication, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

McClendon, Brian (2012): Building a Better Map of Europe [Online]. Available: html [Accessed 20/3/2013].

Mezzadra, Sandro & Neilson, Brett (2013): Border as Method: Or, The Multiplication of Labor, Durham: Duke University Press.

Mitchell, W.J.T. (2005): What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images, Chicago ; London: University of Chicago Press.

Moore, Jason W. (2015): Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital, London: Verso.

Mukerji, Chandra (1983): From Graven Images: Patterns of Modern Materialism, New York: Columbia University Press.

Mumford, Lewis (1963): Technics and Civilization, New York: Harbinger Books.

Murphy, David J. & Hall, Charles A.S. (2010): 'Year in review-EROI or energy return on (energy) invested'. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

O'Beirne, Justin (2016): What Happened to Google Maps? [Online]. Available: [Accessed 3/5/2016].

OICA (2017): 'Production Statistics', International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufactures,

Petroski, Henry (2006): 'On the Road'. American Scientist, 94, 396-9.

Pfohl, Stephen (2005): 'New Global Technologies of Power: Cybernetic Capitalism and Social Inequality'. In: Romero, M. & Margolis, E. (eds.) The Blackwell Companion to Social Inequalities. Hoboken: Blackwell.

Prashad, Vijay (2014): The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South, London: Verso.

Rossiter, Ned (2017): Software, Infrastructure, Labor: A Media Theory of Logistical Nightmares, New York: Routledge.

Sharp, Geoff (1993): 'Extended Forms of the Social: Technological Mediation and Self-Formation'. Arena Journal, 1.

Sharp, Geoff (1985): 'Constitutive Abstraction and Social Practice'. Arena, 70, 48-82.

Sharp, G and White D. (1968): 'Features of the Intellectually Trained', Arena, 15, 30-33

Ström, Timothy Erik (2017): 'Abstraction and Production in Google Maps: The Reorganization of Subjectivity, Materiality and Labour', Arena Journal, no.47/48, 143-71.

Ström, Timothy Erik (2018): Mapping Google Maps: Critiquing an Ideological Vision of the World. Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University.

Thatcher, Margaret (1981): Interview for Sunday Times, [Accessed 20/9/2017].

Thielmann, Tristan (2010): 'Locative Media and the Mediated Localities: An Introduction of Media Geography'. Aether, Spring, 1-17.

TSHA (2010): Gulf Oil Corporation, Texas State Historical Association, [Accessed 20/9/2017].

Tsing, Anna (2009): 'Supply Chains and the Human Condition'. Rethinking Marxism, 21, 148-76.

Turnbull, David (1996): 'Cartography and Science in Early Modern Mapping: Mapping the Construction of Knowledge'. Imago Mundi, 48.

Wallerstein, Immanuel (1974) The Modern World-System, vol. I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century, New York: Academic Press.

Ward' Communications (2010): World Motor Vehicle Data 2010 Edition, Southfield.

Wiener, Norbert (1948): Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in The Animal and The Machine, New York: The Technology Press.

Williams, Raymond (1966): Communications, Ringwood: Penguin Books.

Williams, Raymond (1977): Marxism and Literature, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Williamson, Samuel H. (2017): 'Annualized Growth Rate and Graphs of the DJIA, S&P500, NASDAQ in the United States Between Any Two Dates', MeasuringWorth, [Accessed 20/9/2017].

Zuboff, Shoshana (2016): The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism [Online]. Available: [Accessed 8/4/2016].






Mediatization, Mobility and Methods of Knowledge Production