Earth-Browsing: Satellite Images, Global Events and Visual Literacy

Location: Salon A-F Level: Novice

News media have used satellite images to represent global events ranging from the war in Bosnia to the conflict in Sudan, from Hurricane Katrina to the tsunami in Indonesia, and satellite images have become staples in applications like Google Earth and are being integrated within other platforms as well. Most citizens are not trained to read satellite images, however, and thus there are problems of visual literacy associated with their use. Neogeographers and software developers are uniquely positioned to help educate citizens-users about satellite images. By providing specific details about the satellite images they use, developers can help foster public awareness about satellite technologies and the images they generate. In this talk, I provide a brief overview of ways satellite images have been used to represent global events, discuss the properties of satellite images from a cultural perspective, and offer some suggestions for the integration of satellite images in location-based applications.

Photo of Lisa Parks

Lisa Parks

University of California-Santa Barbara

Lisa Parks, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies and is a Research Associate of the Center for Information Technology and Society at UC Santa Barbara. She is the author of Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual (Duke University Press 2005) and Mixed Signals: Media Infrastructures and Cultural Geographies (forthcoming) and is co-editing Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries and Cultures with James Schwoch. Other recent publications focus upon satellite media and world conflict, the visualization of infrastructures, and e-waste. Parks was a research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin in 2006/2007 and in recent years has given invited lectures in Germany, Bosnia, Hungary, Spain, Denmark, Slovenia, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, England, and the US.

  • Autodesk
  • Google
  • ESRI
  • Nokia
  • DigitalGlobe
  • Earthscape
  • LightPole
  • MapJack
  • MapQuest
  • MetaCarta
  • Microsoft
  • Poly9
  • Skyhook Wireless
  • TeleAtlas
  • Yahoo! Inc.
  • Zvents
  • BNet

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