The Claude mirror, the mediation of nature and social networking

Green Corridor, page 2 images, 3 Resistance, 4 Mediation of Nature, 5 Walking as Radical, 6 webcam,


hand-held devices with little glowing screens are completely familiar to all of us, yet the notion of turning one’s back to see the landscape in a little, shining hand-held mirror seems absurd. Is this really anymore absurd than the myriad of devices we use to see and record our every moment and then upload to our PCs or the internet?  the Claude mirror was the virtual reality device of the 18th century. it foreshadowed by almost 300 years our present mediation of nature through digital technology and the resulting social interaction.

as important as the image in the claude mirror was, the sociability around the experience was equally important. Being a tourist was a serious, and at times an arduous and dangerous pursuit, but it was central to one’s education and one’s place in society. Although being an accomplished drawer was an achievement to be admired, being able to function socially was also paramount.

The claude mirror was a device used to instruct viewers in the picturesque composition of landscape. Tourists used the mirror to find and fix views in their memory and to transcribe records of their observation. the circulation of these memories, accounts and sketches is a species of social networking. the claude mirror is a piece of technology that creates the circumstances for exchange on the subject of landscape and place.

As we now have many topics of popular or social discussion, from personal to larger social issues, art, entertainment, the environment, etc, so too did 18th and 19 century society. the changing landscape (championed by Romantic artists and poets) was one such important issue of discussion, and can be seen as an earlier pre-curser to our modern Green movement, but couched in an aesthetic concern, as well as political and economic.

Facebook, flickr, blogs, twitter, plaxo and the like are digital continuations of this circulation.