Vertical Atlas – world.orbit is a public research project focusing on a critical and generative engagement with satellite data. In a series of workshops, artists and designers can learn how to find, read, process and translate satellite data. Alternative digital cartographies can identify other ways of representing global and local developments in narratives that help us to see Earth anew.
Seeing Earth anew
Satellites play a central role in witnessing and understanding events on the global scale. Circling the world in rhythms that range from a near-live, hourly recurrence to slow 12-day cycles, they read the entire atmosphere and surface of Earth and its oceans. With a plethora of sensors scanning in a wide range of electromagnetic bandwidths in a huge diversity of global observation missions, they trace water cycles and temperatures; witness the presence and flows of various gases; see the growth and decay of forests and vegetation; and monitor life in cities and observe mobility flows through visible or hidden infrastructures.
The images constructed from satellite data tend to focus on particular information qualities, catering for scientific analysis or giving the coordinates for commercial opportunities and technological interventions.
Like no other instrument, Earth-observation satellites feature in narratives of neutral knowledge, of quantifiable representations of states-of-affairs observed from a detached perspective. As such, they provide a powerful anchor point for the western, techno-scientific cosmology, in which nature is objectified and seen from the outside by human subjects enhanced by technologies. At the same time, satellite observation of Earth offers humans the possibility to perceive the planet as a connected whole, adding a vital, shared dimension to the increasingly fragmented perspectives that rule the destructive events on the surface of Earth.
Vertical Atlas is a research and publication project about techno-politics around the globe, in relation to techno-cultural worldviews. Vertical Atlas – world.orbit acknowledges that satellite data is not neutral, but is always captured and formatted around certain goals. Based on this, Vertical Atlas – world.orbit asks what processes of correlation, transformation and aggregation can be applied to satellite data so that it can play a part in other necessary representations of Earth, in narratives or experiences with multiple perspectives, scales, time frames and voices, sensitive to the fact that techno-cultural, biological, political and atmospheric processes all depend on each other.
More information about the series of World.orbit workshops can be found here. Livestreams, recordings and other materials will be available during and after the events.
In preparation for the workshop series, we recommend looking over these tools, related to Geographic Information Systems, Earth Observation and datasets.
References by the contibutors and other practitioners working with satellite data.