Enchanting the Desert: Visualizing the Production of Space at the Grand Canyon

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Nicholas Bauch is Geographer-in-Residence at the Spatial History Project at Stanford University. He is a cultural geographer whose work brings digital techniques to bear on the art of landscape interpretation. He is author of A Geography of Digestion (forthcoming, University of California Press), and Enchanting the Desert (forthcoming, Stanford University Press). A recent experimental project is a kinetic sculpture he built called The Irreproducibility Machine. He holds a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Enchanting the Desert is a digital monograph based on a single historical document: a slideshow made by commercial photographer Henry G. Peabody between 1899-1930 at the Grand Canyon of Arizona. The project reconstructs Peabody’s slideshow in an interactive medium, allowing readers place the slides in a greater geographical context.  The photographs are used to open up the expanse of the Grand Canyon itself, laying bare the European-American project of remaking this space, focusing on specific territories within the vast region to tell the story in a spatially organized narrative.  When readers encounter this work, they can expect to uncover a pattern language that describes a new cultural becoming of this great landscape. Another layer on the palimpsest of meanings that have accrued here for nearly 10,000 years, the Euro-American experience of the Grand Canyon is yet an altogether new one.  Using the established medium of the website application, Enchanting the Desert introduces a genre of scholarship: the born-digital interactive monograph.  The medium allows for technical leaps impossible in a print publication.  The genre takes advantage of these leaps by performing spatial narrative in an inventive new way.

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