Maps are often taken quite literally at face value. They are relied upon to give us an objective picture of a place. However, the points of interest on a map represent quite subjective decisions about what to show to the world and what should be obscured and left out. An analysis of the various maps of the Clark Economic Zone is important because it reveals the neoliberal values upholding Clark and erases the experiences of all of the people whose work upholds this structure.
A map from a website that markets travel to Clark overtly directs the viewer’s attention to certain aspects. First, the parts of the zone that are part of the resort and leisure activities are all in green. Perhaps this is just a grassy area, but the lighter green also might just be a way of drawing the viewers’ attention to the area, since we can see that there is much less green space on another Google Maps version below. The industrial areas are noted in grey, which for the most part draw your attention away from them. The difference marks how the marketers of Clark want it to be seen as primarily a beautiful, scenic tourist destination, but the inclusion of the grey industrial zones shows that they also want to include allusions to the global modernization taking place within Clark. The inclusion and special notation of the Texas Instruments Complex is a good example of this. It is specifically marked with a square, unlike anything else on the map. The choice to emphasize an area associated with this American technology company highlights the neoliberal notions of modernity that Clark so eagerly wishes to project.
What Google Maps shows when you first type “Clark Economic Zone” is a pretty simplistic version of Clark. Four sites of note are listed in the right hand panel: The President’s Office, the airport, the development corporation and the public safety department.Also visible on the map are golf courses and a leisure complex. If we read this map through an American corporate company’s eyes, we can see that the sites that are denoted mostly have to do with development and tourism. The airport seems to take up the most space, emphasizing the possibility of convenient travel. However, safety also seems to be an important feature. The Public Safety Department is one of the four items of interest that comes up and Air Force City is one of the few locations noted on the map. These details highlight the need for a feeling of safety and seclusion that foreign travelers long for. The desire to feel like “royalty” on these “royalty trips” that Gonzales writes about in “Military Bases, ‘Royalty Trips,’ and Imperial Modernities” is necessitated by a feeling of separation, elevation, and protection from the outsiders, which we can see symbolically inscribed on this map.
The first map is specifically for Clark and its targeted audience, but the Google Maps version is supposedly for anyone who happens to look it up. Where it makes sense for Clark to highlight the aspects of the base that enhance images of leisure and hierarchical isolation, the ways that Google Maps also contributes to this message shows how globalization has spread this internalized governmentality and neoliberalism. Stephanie Hsu writes, “As the primary means of transforming the trans body into the citizen body, SRS in Northeast Asia functions as a technique of governmentality that connects dominant voices in the international civil sphere to ruling ideologies at the nation-state level; stabilizes the gender binary in ways which facilitate the social if not the sexual reproduction of modern Asian culture; and participates in maximizing the efficiency of the state as well as the market in its production of the trans body as a resource that can be cultivated for the social good” (Hsu). Though she is writing about the trans body, almost the same can be said about the messages the maps convey. They make the experiences of the women who work at Clark base invisible, and therefore digestible, and their physical labor becomes just a “resource” cultivated to make the most profit. Like the way SRS is functioning in Northeast Asia, these maps are a “technique of governmentality” that represent ruling ideologies that expand beyond just the Clark Economic Zone, as evidenced by Google’s role.
Google is not an objective source, it is an “American multinational technology company” with vested interests and priorities. Google reinforces the values represented in Clark’s map, because as an American company, it gains from a positive tourism-based capitalist relationship with the Philippines. In 2013, Google actually removed the word “favela” from maps of Rio, because officials in Rio didn’t want tourists coming for the Olympics to see the city’s favelas before they saw the tourist attractions. In the same way, in Google’s depiction of Clark, we do not see any of the surrounding neighborhoods depicted and we completely miss the way that locals from those communities live different lives that contribute to the upkeep of Clark. Google can choose how to portray certain places strategically, and in ways that will benefit American capitalism and foreign relations. We cannot look at these maps without remembering where they came from, in the same way that we must question norms about femininity and masculinity and controlling images about race and class.