Impossible Maps W4 HW

Feminist data viz notes:

  • Feminist standpoint theory: all knowledge is socially situated; the perspectives of oppressed groups (women, minorities, etc) are systematically excluded from “general” knowledge
  • Feminist data viz could:
    1. invent new ways to represent uncertainty, outsides, missing data, and flawed methods
      • can we collect and represent data that was never collected?
      • can we find the population that was excluded?
      • can we critically examine the methods of study rather than accepting the JSON as is?
    2. invent new ways to reference the material economy behind the data
      • what are the conditions that make data viz possible?
      • who are the funders?
      • who collected the data?
      • interested/stakeholders behind the data?
    3. make dissent possible
      • data viz = stable images/facts
      • re-situate data viz by destabilizing, ie making dissent possible
        • how can we talk back to the data?
        • how can we question the facts?
        • how can we present alternative views and realities?

Representation and the Necessity of Interpretation notes:

  • satellite imagery were only until recently military secrets
  • in 2000, the nyt for the first time used the newly available Ikonos satellite “as a sort of alternative investigative journalist in Chechnya” but “failed to arouse public sympathy or outrage”; however, before/after images have still become commonplace in reporting from zones of conflict
  • Sept 1999: Space Imaging launched Ikonos, the first satellite to make hires image data publicly available
  • We need to be alert to what is being highlighted and pointed toward, to the ways in which satellite evidence is used in making assertions and arguments; for every image, we should be able to inquire about its technology, location data, ownership, legibility, and source



  • I never realized that satellite imagery was born from the agenda of the US military, yet it’s not surprising. What struck me most from the latter reading was learning that Colin Powell used satellite images as incontrovertible proof that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—I don’t think you can get a much better example of “interpreted data”.
  • One year later, in 2003, Ross McNutt’s team put a 44 mega-pixel camera on a small plane to watch over Fallujah, Iraq. Its images were high-def enough to track the sources of roadside bombs, and it was on all day, every day. After the war, Ross did a piloted this technology in Dayton, Ohio, as a way for the local police to identify criminals and gang members.
  • When I first heard this story, I didn’t feel too conflicted about it—bad guys were being caught and brought to justice, what’s the problem here? However, after reading Laura Kurgan’s chapter on representation and interpretation, now it feels like Ross was just thinking locally about persecuting colored people. Especially considering that a program like his would only be implemented in larger urban areas, ie where most minorities live.


Final project idea:

  • I’d like to download my location history from Google, and visualize it to get a sense of my navigational habits/biases and identify opportunities for breaking out of my comfort zone
  • I thought this was a nice use of satellite imagery; this view shows the dramatic urbanization of Shanghai over 30 years, particularly the waterfront along the Huangpu River. Also fascinating is the expanding, presumably manmade coastline


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