AM08 2008 START Conference Manager    

Credibility and the Use of Geospatial Media in Activism and Advocacy

Lane DeNicola

ASIS&T 2008 Annual Meeting (AM08 2008)
Columbus, Ohio, October 24-29, 2008


The intersection of science and activism, particularly in the environmental domain, has enjoyed substantive analysis in recent years, yet the scientific field and commercial industry of earth remote sensing has yet to be critically examined from that perspective. Earth remote sensing (ERS)—the science and craft of interpreting images of the terrestrial surface collected at high altitude—is unquestionably a premier source of information about our environment, and offers vast possibilities for improving environmental stewardship, whether by state agencies, corporations, or civil society. It has also been critiqued as a tool that can too easily shape knowledge according to dominant interests, bringing into question recent experimentation with ERS by advocacy groups. This essay begins with an observation first made by an industry pundit in 2001: that ERS is in danger of suffering from an “imagery credibility paradox,” thanks in part to the recent influx of inexperienced “imagery activists” whose unorthodox priorities threaten to destabilize public confidence in ERS imagery as a source of knowledge. I explore the rhetorical dichotomization of the ERS community into “traditional” and “new” users through the lens of critical work in expertise and state-society interaction from the fields of geography, science studies, and new media. By examining the work of “imagery activists” in New York State and reframing the imagery credibility paradox as an attempt to democratize a previously exclusive technology, and to renegotiate the terms of credibility and expert authority, I support an argument for imagery activists as vital contributors to a more appropriate use of geospatial media and to a sorely needed discussion on “imagery ethics.”

START Conference Manager (V2.54.6)