The collection of the workshops results is locatet at this Wiki. In early September a format for the workshop documentation will be defined based on the collected material. The Wiki is open to contributions by everbody. The final documentation is to be expected in late November. Thanks in advance to everybody who is contributing!



Satellite/Border/Footprint is a three-day workshop with Lisa Parks (Santa Barbara, US) at PHOENIX Halle Dortmund, organized by Hartware MedienKunstVerein in the frame of GrenzGebietRuhr.

The workshop aims to discover and unveil the non-static and invisible border lines in a productive and critical manner. Workshop participants are (media) artists, but also concerned citizen from the Ruhr area, invited through an open call. In addition public lectures on Saturday July 30th from 4pm to 8pm by artists and researchers my provide substantial insight into current developments. To address the dynamics of the current situation, the workshops' outcome will be published later on in a software based project.


In everyday reality borders appear through mapping, but also through the use of signs and labels. They are always a realization of power relations, sometimes brutal and visible, sometimes more subtle but still effective.

Through her research the American theoretician Prof. Lisa Parks – professor of film and media studies at the University of Santa Barbara, California – dealt with satellite footprints and more generally with wireless media infrastructure. [1]

Footprint analysis is a critical practice that investigates the territorial, infrastructural and geopolitical aspects of satellite use. The term footprint is invoked here in two ways. First, a footprint is a mapped geographic boundary that designates where on earth a signal
from a given satellite can be received. There are footprint maps available for most communication satellites that reveal the zones of coverage available from a given satellite's orbital position. Such maps are useful in that they illustrate the domain of potential transmission across a given territory, but they are ultimately insufficient in that they do not specify the infrastructures or processes on the ground that enable signal distribution, the organizations that own and operate these systems, nor do they provide information about the way various actors negotiate the effects of satellite use across different locales.

Second, footprint is conceptualized a critical space in which the material and socio-historical conditions related to a satellite's operations can be described and analyzed. This second meaning is an attempt to annotate the first meaning - that is, to infuse coverage maps, which only show boundaries of potential signal circulation, with details of the diverse, complex and contradictory socio-historical conditions in which satellites are used. Footprint analysis moves across these two meanings, then, by first engaging with maps and then by investigating details about the satellite's development and uses whether through onsite research or from afar. The goal is to bring the names, histories, coverage boundaries, and infrastructures of satellites into greater critical awareness and to encourage further discussion of the territorial, infrastructural and geopolitical implications of their use.

Because footprints transect sovereign nation-state boundaries and because satellites have historically been developed and often used without the authority of nationstates, they are inherently involved in geopolitical matters. To be sure, satellite footprints are much more than static maps - they are politically charged documents that showcase previous, existing or desired political alliances, trade relations and/or intercultural campaigns. They are symptoms of the power of the transnational corporation in the age of globalization in that they visualize the corporation's technological capacity to operate across nation-state boundaries, while providing little sense of limits on this power. They are visualizations of technical processes that are imperceptible and yet that increasingly set the conditions for politics, trade and culture in our world. Footprint maps bring the satellite's geopolitics into relief, but they are only starting points that demand further critical inquiry.

Rather than assume the footprint could be described in its totality, footprint analysis engages only with portions of it in order to provide a sense of the complexity and impossibility of an entire picture. In other words, rather than set out to describe and document all parts of the system that make a footprint possible, the analysis focuses upon
a selection of localized sites or issues as suggestive parts of a broader system that is imperceptible in its entirety. It is a critical practice that emphasizes the discourses, manifestations, and traces of satellite technology rather than being invested in presenting the thing itself. Footprint maps imply the presence of ground stations and satellites in orbit, but do not actually represent them. They require us to infer and imagine their presence, locations and operations.

[1] Parks, Lisa: Cultures in Orbit. Duke University Press, London, 2005]

The workshop continues a series of workshops at HMKV aiming to educate artists and an interested public: How I learned to love RFID (2006) and Satellite Voyeurism (2007), curated by Francis Hunger.



The workshop Satellite/Border/Footprint is funded by Ruhr.2010 in the frame of Grenzgebiet Ruhr, the LAG Soziokultur NRW and by the Cultural Office of the City of Dortmund.