Scalar travel documentaries and their adaptations in interactive media present animated models of the body’s interior and the physical worlds at a variety of scales. Featuring increasingly comprehensive animated images at microscopic and macroscopic scales, they help scientists better understand the structure of the universe. This article examines the poetics of scale and the diverse rhetorical mechanisms used in these documentaries. In Powers of Ten and Cosmic Voyage, for instance, the metronomic overview of the underlying organization of the natural world generates ideological discourses on the position of humankind in the universe. The mechanical gaze these films produce, it is argued, reveals the instrumentality of new modes of knowledge and the posthuman nature of our perception. Finally, comparing the various ways with which scalar documentaries animate scientific models, this article suggests that the visions of the natural world these films construct should be more reflexive of the limits of representation at the edge of the knowable.
Powers of Ten
representation of science