Unmarked Planes and Hidden Geographies
By Trevor Paglen
Design by Craig Dietrich & Raegan Kelly

Designer's Statement

The cornerstone of Unmarked Planes and Hidden Geographies is a dynamically generated map of the southwestern United States. Data collected is filtered according to predetermined fleets and each plane's flight activity from a fixed set of bases. The map engine, which started filtering data July of 2006, has produced some interesting patterns--vector logs of JANETs operating in and out of some of the large and smaller regional public airports we use. The airborne "black world" is clearly not restricted to the confines of secret military facilities, and can be made visible to those who know where to look.

Early development research was inspired by "Trip Mapping with PHP" by David Sklar, author of PHP Cookbook. He outlines the necessary algorithms for converting longitude/latitude coordinates to pixels to write route lines on a map image. Unmarked Planes and Hidden Geographies expanded on these operations as we anticipated "black world" flight paths to North/South and East/West hemispheres, which are not supported in the original mathematical outlines. While pixels start at (0,0) in the lower left of an image and increase into infinity to the upper right, coordinates originate from 0 in the 'middle', at Greenwich, England, and the equator, with corresponding plus and minus values. Each incoming coordinate is algorithmically converted to a plus-only pixel coordinate system and then written into the database.

Flight information originates from online route data based on queries formed from Trevor's research. Once logged, this database of stored information is written to the map using PHP's implementation of the GD graphics library. The data, represented by route lines on the map of the Southwest, builds durationally to form a quick-glance overview of activity.

Craig and Raegan