Home > Public Domain Data > Earth Surveillance Tech changing everything, including us?

Earth Surveillance Tech changing everything, including us?

A recent article claiming that new Earth surveillance technology is about to change everything, including us, merits a review because it touches on many themes common to our book and this blog.  First, as one of the themes of this blog is to foster a critical view of data, recognizing its utility but also recognizing its limitations, I encourage you as I did to investigate the source of any piece of information you find, in this case, Vice.com, the platform where this article is hosted.  Vice content is shown on their website, through their news division, a creative agency called Virtue, and their history from 1994 to today.  I was glad to discover that the author of this article, Becky Ferreira, focuses on technology and science.

In this article, Becky begins with the Earthrise photo taken on 24 December 1968 from Apollo 8, which I also have found so intriguing that I included it and its impact in a chapter of its own in my book Interpreting the World as one of the 100 most revolutionary discoveries in geography.   Becky then asks how we will deal with the subsequent deluge of information that we have about Planet Earth that began (in some ways) with that day in 1968.  The author discusses initiatives that I was not aware of, such as ICARUS, that monitors animal populations from instruments aboard the International Space Station, along with initiatives we have discussed in this blog, such as CIESIN, crowdsourcing such as after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, ethics in geospatial technology, sensitivity regarding locations shown on maps and imagery, crowdsourcing initiatives such as OpenStreetMap, and more recently, dashboards for the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Earth surveillance article I mention above in my view is an interesting summary of some technological and societal aspects of geospatial technology, though I wish it provided a look into the future, perhaps accompanied by interviews with some leaders in the field.  Perhaps the author ran out of space for this and so I look forward to future installments.  I also was hoping the article would discuss more location privacy issues, as the title indicated.  I also am intrigued by the notion of how geospatial technologies are changing us as people, a topic that we will continue in this blog and that I encourage others to explore.  And while change-behavior topics such how we navigate with phones vs. paper maps and the spatial cognition part of the brains of London taxi drivers have been interesting in the past, in the future I would like to see analyses examining those initiatives where geotechnology is specifically applied to do something good for people and the planet:   Hundreds of such initiatives have existed, from Ushahidi crowdsourcing in Haiti, to OpenStreetMap, to Mapillary’s street views, to monitoring trash or invasive species or water quality.  What were the benefits?  What were the costs?  What difference did these initiatives make?

–Joseph Kerski

Earth Surveillance Tech changing everything–including us?
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