Sensing Injustice


Image: AAAS

Sensing Injustice:
Satellites, Human Rights, and the Law
A series of workshops that explore the use of satellites for mapping and understanding contemporary conflicts
Organised by the Centre for Research Architecture/Forensic Architecture

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Close up at a Distance: Book launch with Laura Kurgan
20 March  2013 10.30-12.30pm / Centre for Research Architecture

[full details here]

The past two decades have seen revolutionary shifts in our ability to navigate, inhabit, and define the spatial realm. The data flows that condition much of our lives now regularly include Global Positioning System (GPS) readings and satellite images of a quality once reserved for a few militaries and intelligence agencies, and powerful geographic information system (GIS) software is now commonplace. These new technologies have raised fundamental questions about the intersection between physical space and its representation, virtual space and its realization. In Close Up at a Distance, Laura Kurgan offers a theoretical account of these new digital technologies of location and a series of practical experiments in making maps and images with spatial data. Neither simply useful tools nor objects of wonder or anxiety, the technologies of GPS, GIS, and satellite imagery become, in this book, the subject and the medium of a critical exploration.

Close Up at a Distance records situations of intense conflict and struggle, on the one hand, and fundamental transformations in our ways of seeing and of experiencing space, on the other. Kurgan maps and theorizes mass graves, incarceration patterns, disappearing forests, and currency flows in a series of cases that range from Kuwait (1991) to Kosovo (1999), New York (2001) to Indonesia (2010). Using digital spatial hardware and software designed for military and governmental use in reconnaissance, secrecy, monitoring, ballistics, the census, and national security, Kurgan engages and confronts the politics and complexities of these technologies and their uses. At the inter­section of art, architecture, activism, and geography, she uncovers, in her essays and projects, the opacities inherent in the recording of information and data and reimagines the spaces they have opened up.


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Regarding the Genocide of Others: Satellite workshop with Andrew Herscher
4 March  2013 10.30-12.30pm / Centre for Research Architecture 

Andrew Herscher received his PhD from Harvard University in 2002. His work explores the architectural and urban forms of political violence, cultural memory, collective identity, and human rights, focusing on modern and contemporary Central and Eastern Europe. He has been particularly involved in the Balkans, where he has worked for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia as an investigator and expert witness on the war-time destruction of cultural heritage; directed the Department of Culture of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo; and co-founded and co-directed the NGO, Kosovo Cultural Heritage Project. His book, Violence Taking Place: The Architecture of the Kosovo Conflict, was published by Stanford University Press in 2010 in the series “Cultural Memory in the Present.”  At the University of Michigan, he is jointly appointed to the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and the Department of Art History.  From 2005 to 2009, he also coordinated the Rackham Interdisciplinary Seminar on Human Rights


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Sensing the Remote: workshop with Territorial Agency (John Palmesino & Ann-Sofi Rönnskog)
29 January  2013 3:00-5:00pm / Centre for Research Architecture

Imaging and measuring of transformation in the inhabited territories are today undergoing fundamental changes. An array of new sensing technologies are being linked to the control, survey and monitoring of a world that is undergoing vast juridical, economic, urban, environmental and material reconfigurations. New images are produced automatically to document and intercept global migration, to survey effects of climate change, to patrol sea routes, to control public spaces, to measure the efficacy of public policy, to detect environmental conditions, to communicate complex datasets and to monitor life.

How can architecture re-imagine the form of transformation of contemporary territories from the remote sensing technologies that dominate our automated image-production landscapes?

Territorial Agency, founded by architects and urbanists John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog in 2007, is an independent organisation that innovatively promotes and works for sustainable and integrated territorial transformations. Their practice combines architecture, analysis, advocacy and action, and often brings together multiple stakeholders from international organisations, to local, national governments and private actors. Amongst their projects is NORTH, a multidisciplinary research into the shifting geopolitical conditions of the Arctic and Subarctic regions, which focuses on the relation between political, spatial and territorial dimensions of the changing environments in the High North. Territorial Agency has further designed, for example, the first integrated vision of the Markermeer addressing the changing dynamics of the Netherlands’ fift largest polder and its surroundings.


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Satellites, HR and the Law: workshop  with Lars Bromley & Ray Purdy
27 November 2012  / Centre for Research Architecture

A workshop that explores the use of remote sensing technologies within human rights investigations and advocacy work and examines the current challenges that govern the use of satellite imagery as evidence within legal and juridical frameworks. 

1.00 – 2.00 Lars Bromley
On the emergence of geoscience and the use of satellite imagery for human rights and humanitarian objectives.

2.00 – 3.00: Discussion

3.00 – 3.30 Charles Heller / Lorenzo Pezzani
Forensic Oceanography project – use of satellite imagery in the “Left-to-Die” boat case.

3.30 – 4.15 Ray Purdy
Satellites and the Law: current use of satellite imagery in legal contexts, difficulties and new directions.

4.15 – 5.00: Discussion 

Lars Bromley is an analyst with the UN Institute for Training and Research Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNITAR/UNOSAT). He was previously project director with the Science and Human Rights Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has conducted extensive work to apply remote sensing, satellite imagery, and related tools to large-scale atrocities in Darfur, Burma, Ethiopia, and elsewhere, in partnership with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and numerous other organizations. He has published in the International Journal of Remote Sensing, the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, and other publications and has presented at a wide variety of academic and private-sector venues. He holds an MA in geography from the University of Maryland.

Ray Purdy has extensive experience working on contracted research projects in the environmental law field. 
His research has mainly focused on the use of satellite remote sensing to monitor and enforce laws. Ray is particularly interested in legal applications for satellites, how they might influence regulatory compliance, and evidential and privacy implications. Between 2005 and 2008 he was funded on an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant: ‘Satellite Monitoring as a Legal Compliance Tool in the Environmental Sector’. Between 2009 and 2010 he was funded on an Economic and Social Research Grant ESRC research grant: ‘Smart Enforcement in Environmental Legal Systems: A Socio-Legal Analysis of Regulatory Satellite Monitoring in Australia’. Ray’s research in this area can be seen in his Satellites and the Law Website.