Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual

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Duke University Press, 2005 - Social Science - 241 pages
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In 1957 the Soviets launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite, into space. At the turn of the twenty-first century, more than eight thousand satellites orbited the Earth. Enabling pictures of the whole planet, simultaneous live broadcasts to people on different continents, and much more, satellites have fundamentally reconfigured understandings of ourselves in relation to others around the world and our planet in relation to the cosmos. In Cultures in Orbit, Lisa Parks analyzes different uses of satellite television in order to rethink the meanings of and relations between television and "the global." In the process, she shows that the many convergences between televisual and satellite technologies necessitate an expanded definition of "television"--one encompassing military monitoring, public education, and scientific observation as well as commercial entertainment and public broadcasting. Roaming across the disciplines of media studies, geography, and science and technology studies, Parks examines specific uses of satellites by broadcasters, archaeologists, military intelligence officers, and astronomers. She looks at the first live international television broadcast, which reached five hundred million viewers in twenty-four countries in 1967, and Imparja tv, an Aboriginal satellite tv network in Australia. Turning to satellites' remote sensing capabilities, she explores the U.S. military's production of satellite images of the war in Bosnia as well as archaeologists' use of satellite imagery in the excavation of Cleopatra's palace in Alexandria, Egypt. Parks's reflections on how Western fantasies of control are implicated in the Hubble telescope's observations of outer space point to a broader concern she highlights: that while satellite television creates a "global village," it also cuts and divides the planet in ways that extend the cultural and economic hegemony of the post-industrial West.

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Introduction i
Our World and the Fantasy of Global Presence
Satellite Witnessing

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About the author (2005)

Lisa Parks is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is a coeditor of Planet TV: A Global Television Reader.

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