Where 2.0: Satellites and The Public Interest

Lisa Parks (Professor of Media Studies at U.C. Santa Barbara) has devoted years studying the societal and cultural implications of satellite technology. She very briefly described her research into the use of satellite technology during the War in Bosnia (1992-1995), Rwanda (1996), and more recently the use of satellite images to justify the invasion of Iraq.

In terms of conveying current events, she noted that the USHMM’s use of Google Earth to educate the public about the crisis in Darfur, signaled a change in the role of satellite images. The satellite images functioned like wall paper, with the detailed images and zoom-in capabilities of Google Earth overriding those images.

She closed by appealing to the technologists and web developers in the audience. Satellites are everywhere and impact a lot of what we do, yet we know very little about them. When embedding satellite images in web applications, developers should consider exposing important satellite meta-data to users: source of the images, sensing technique used, orbital address and owner of the satellite, etc. She also reiterated the need for a map displaying the thousands of satellites orbiting the earth.

It is difficult to do justice to her moving presentation in a short blog post. For more detail, check out her book on this important topic. Kudos to Brady and the rest of the program committee for having Lisa speak at Where 2.0.

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