Cultures in Orbit

Satellites and the Televisual

Cultures in Orbit

Console-ing Passions: Television and Cultural Power

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Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 37 photos, 1 table Published: April 2005

Author: Lisa Parks

Cultural Studies, Media Studies > TV

In 1957 Sputnik, the world’s first man-made satellite, dazzled people as it zipped around the planet. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, more than eight thousand satellites orbited the Earth, and satellite practices such as live transmission, direct broadcasting, remote sensing, and astronomical observation had altered how we imagined ourselves in relation to others and our planet within the cosmos. In Cultures in Orbit, Lisa Parks analyzes these satellite practices and shows how they have affected meanings of “the global” and “the televisual.” Parks suggests that the convergence of broadcast, satellite, and computer technologies necessitates an expanded definition of “television,” one that encompasses practices of military monitoring 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 uses of satellites by broadcasters, military officials, archaeologists, and astronomers. She looks at Our World, a live intercontinental television program that reached five hundred million viewers 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 satellites 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 views of outer space point to a broader concern: that while satellite uses promise a “global village,” they also cut and divide the planet in ways that extend the hegemony of the post-industrial West. In focusing on such contradictions, Parks highlights how satellites cross paths with cultural politics and social struggles.


Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual, by Lisa Parks, is a fascinating look at satellites and satellite television from the viewpoint of five distinct applications. . . . Parks has written an interesting and informative book that will find its place among the growing body of work in media and culture.” — Fredessa D. Hamilton, The Communication Review

Cultures in Orbit is an insightful work that is not only helpful for those interested in satellites, but it can provide a framework for studying other communication technologies.” — Howard Fremeth, Topia

Cultures in Orbit takes an unconventional approach towards the spread of information and offers an interesting and innovative perspective. . . . Cultures in Orbit offers an important and convincing revelation of power structures.” — Stephanie Dornschneider, European Journal of Communication

“Lisa Parks brings together television and cultural studies with science and technology studies and studies in globalization in an ambitious and groundbreaking contribution to the study of converging media technologies.” — Andaluna Borcila, American Studies

“Parks is accomplished at cultural theory and she knows the history of television and cinema well. . . . Her book could serve well in a variety of contexts for undergraduate and graduate classes.” — John Cloud, Technology and Culture

“Parks’s book is another outstanding example of the pioneering work being done to deepen and broaden television studies, and to question quite profoundly the narrow limitations placed by the field in its early days on what we might mean by television.” — Sean Cubitt, International Journal of Cultural Studies

“This is a fascinating book, and Parks’ thoughts on satellite television reconfiguring ‘the global’ are important, insightful and persuasive.” — Brett Christophers, Cultural Geographies

"Cultures in Orbit introduces a new perspective on the culture of the satellite. This book would benefit those interested in media studies, cultural studies, technology studies, visual studies and globalization studies." — Lamees M. El Baghdady, Transnational Broadcasting Studies

"[A] fascinating study of satellite information gathering. . . . Highly recommended." — R. Cathcart, Choice

"[Lisa Parks] examines an admirably wide range of texts. . . . [Cultures in Orbit] is a remarkably interdisciplinary work that traverses vast terrain and crosses all kinds of borders with a clearly defined purpose and meticulously constructed arguments. . . . [A]n impressive work that is extraordinarily efficient as well as readable." — Gerald Sim, Screening the Past

Cultures in Orbit is a stunning achievement. Lisa Parks weaves a fascinating tale of the culture of the satellite, one that changes how we think about media and globalization. Parks’s compelling and original account demonstrates how profoundly the televisual imagination has shaped culture and knowledge production in the global age. Deftly combining cultural theory with extensive research across archives and disciplines, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in the geopolitical processes of media and the politics of technological change.” — Anna McCarthy, author of Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Space

Cultures in Orbit is a welcome contribution to the study of converging media technologies that draws on too often distinct ideas in cultural studies, visual studies, technology studies, media studies, and studies in globalization. Lisa Parks offers a deft and nuanced analysis of satellite-television interdependency in diverse geopolitical sites, demonstrating with admirable lucidity how each constellation of imaging/viewing practices arises from a specific combination of technological, commercial, military, aesthetic, and cultural forces. This book illuminates the materiality of technology and its crucial role(s) in mediating the images and events we call Earth.” — Jody Berland, editor of Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies


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Price: $25.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1. Satellite Spectacular: Our World and the Fantasy of Global Presence 21

2. Satellite Footprints: Imparja TV and Postcolonial Flaws in Australia 47

3. Satellite Witnessing: Views and Coverage of the War in Bosnia 77

4. Satellite Archaeology: Remote Sensing Cleopatra in Egypt 109

5. Satellite Panoramas: Astronomical Observation and Remote Control 139

Conclusion 167

Notes 185

Bibliography 213

Index 233
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3497-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3461-3
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