Terra Incognita of the Spectacle

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launch date: September 6, 2008
life expectancy: > 10 yrs
orbital altitude: 684 km
orbital inclination: 98, sun-synchronous
equator crossing time: 10:30am
speed: 7.5km/second (27,000 km/hour)
orbit time: 98 mins
revisit time: 3 days, depending on latitude
resolution: 0.41 sq. meter
swath width: 15.2 sq. km or 225 sq km (single-point scene)
key asset: defense, national and homeland security, air and marine transportation, oil and gas, energy, mining, mapping and location-based services, state and local government, insurance and risk management, agriculture, natural resources, environmental monitoring


launch date: May 3, 2002
life expectancy: 5 – 7 yrs
orbital altitude: 822 km
orbital inclination: 98.7, sun-synchronous
equator crossing time: 10:30am
speed: 7.4 km/second (26,640 km/hour)
orbit time: 101.4 mins
revisit time: 2-3 days, depending on latitude
resolution: 2.5 sq. meter resolution
swath width: 60 x 60 km or 60 km x 120 km
key asset: urban and rural planning, medium-scale mapping, oil and gas exploration, natural disaster

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  1. What impact do you want to have with this project?
  2. Start thinking about what is the final outcome?, and make it visible, what those possibilities are:
    - communication or visualization of how this all works — a guide book to this new medium
    - then need the test of that output, how it might manifest, and last as culminating phase of the project
    - radical conceptualization of the built environment?
    - staging new kinds of events? to re-think about captive audience compare to the past?
  3. By making the leap from these analysis, and take the audience into the idea that people can enjoy that speculation
  4. Test it, then carry on with design fiction (real – because it’s possible – social network) then speculative/fantastical outcome of that)
    - politics of resolutions (act of scanning is non-neutral)
    - media flow contrast to least surveilled
  5. Also, think of different aspect to what that “fantastical” can be. Example, thinking of it from the satellite as a subject as a proposal, as oppose to the performance on the Earth (?) (public owned satellites, from satellite’s perspective?)




What meaning does it have, when I claim the rhetorical function of the satellite images as a communication tool — a land-surface base, public voice?

- applying flash-mob to transient people/space

What type of narrative/literary method would be appropriate in building geospatial literacy? (a guide book to satellite as medium)



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Past Sunday, I participated in the performance of The Spine of the Earth, an earth’s scale art piece by Lita Albuquerque for LA’s Pacific Standard Time.

This was an hourlong performance, which is an extension of ‘Spine of the Earth’, an ephemeral collection of intertwining geometric shapes she created in 1980 by shaking cups of pigmented earth onto a vast white expanse of dry lakebed in the Mojave Desert (watch the video below, it’s Aaamazing!)

(Credit:  Spine Of The Earth from Lita Albuquerque on Vimeo)

The participants included 200+ volunteers, a sky-diver, and aerial photographers, for Lita Albuquerque’s performance piece. Starting with the skydiver as a metaphorical meaning of “connecting the sky to Earth”, activating the walk of 200+ performers together, walking down hundreds of stairs at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook in Culver City, while the aerial photographers and the videographers, documenting this hour long performance.

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Links to my previous key experiments:
Based on the Interviews
Subjective Expression Tool

Based on the work upto mid-review, the aspect of making a clear distinction between experience and place to determine the method of exploring the subjective versus the objective representation, was an important aspect in further developing my thesis direction. The big take away from the mid-committee review was that it led me to establish a clearer framework for my thesis by focusing on the aspect on the affordance of documentation in the hyper documented world. That is, instead of just focusing on documenting subjective representations in contrast to the objective technological environment. While researching to find What places are being documented? What places are not? researching forgotten places that result from system glitches as opposed to visual glitches. And that research led me to look more deeper into the satellite documentation, especially through Trevor Paglen’s archive of undocumented spaces.

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I put together this archive of satellite images of the Wind Tunnel Gallery for the Histories of the Future course taught by Norman Klein. It is to compare the image quality while making an educated guess of which type of satellite the image was possibly taken. Below is the link to the site.

Archive: Aerial Photography of the Wind Tunnel Gallery

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Terra Incognita of the Spectacle

In the 1960s, the United States invented the first electro-optical digital transmission system within a military surveillance satellite. This allowed for the monitoring of Soviet Russia in realtime, after WWII. These images dramatically improved America’s knowledge of Soviet Russia, including the capabilities and activities of other nations, by leveraging the aerial representation reserved solely for militaristic use.

In the 1970s, the launch of ERTS (Earth Resources Technology Satellite) catalyzed a shift in the use of imaging technology — expanding our understanding of the environment around us. To this day, no satellite program has ever surpassed the breakthroughs of ERTS. By the early 1990s, The Land Remote Sensing Policy Act was established to reveal new uses for remote sensing data, and made the satellite imagery accessible to a wide audience, thus revolutionizing the geospatial knowledge of every citizen.

This increase in access to the aerial representation of Earth has shifted people’s perception of geographic knowledge. In so doing, it has created new perceptions of spatial scale, and it has changed how people instantaneously monitor and connect to societal events. Owing to this innovation, it has allowed ordinary citizens the opportunity to provide feedback based on the geospatial image. I define these images as the Spectacle of the 21st Century.

Considering the prospect of releasing 20 years worth unprecedented geospatial data to the public, initiated by The Google Earth Engine and Landsat Project combined with emerging practices like PGIS, what ways can design engage in this emerging phenomenon? What are communication tools that can result from speculation, and be grounded by in-depth research to mediate and empower citizens to engage in the 21st century spectacle? How does an extensive knowledge of satellite technology affect the scale of a design intervention?

My thesis will explore tools and methods that enables both individuals and a collective to be documented, in the scale of a satellite. The speculative scenarios will be made  manifest in the form of narratives; historical markers; and the existential evidence upon Earth’s landscape. The design research methods will expand on the technological understanding of how satellite images photograph and provide base knowledge in building geospatial literacy.

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Articles related to monitoring forest with satellite images

Google Earth Engine: cloud initiative for raw satellite imagery access to historical, present and future data, with computational resources for processing.



Carnegie Landsat Analysis System (CLASlite): user friendly forestation monitoring technology from CLASlite, in support to expand use of satellite imagery by the non-experts, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and academic institutions to map and monitor forests with satellite imagery.




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