David Shim

Remote sensing place: Satellite images as visual spatial imaginaries

Geoforum, 51, 2014, 152-160
Publisher website | DOI

How do people come to know the world? How do they get a sense of place and space? Arguably, one of the ways in which they do this is through the practice of remote sensing, among which satellite imagery is one of the most widespread and potent tools of engaging, representing and constructing space. This paper argues that satellite imagery is not only a powerful means of gathering geographical and geopolitical information – for instance through overhead surveillance and the reconnaissance of sites considered suspicious – but is also decisive in producing geographical and geopolitical imaginations. Based on a discussion of the iconic satellite picture of the Korean Peninsula by night, this article shows how satellite imagery constructs – seemingly by itself – North Korea as a distant, foreign and secluded other place in world politics. Referred to in the paper as ‘visual spatial imaginaries’, remote sensing shapes how we imagine places, spaces and sites in what is widely believed to be a terra incognita of the world.

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