Technologies of Space: Verticality, Volume, Infrastructure

The one-day symposium «Technologies of Space: Verticality, Volume, Infrastructure» interrogates recent calls across spatial disciplines to expand space and its mapping from horizontal, plane surface to vertical dimensionality and volume. Lectures by Mark Dorrian, Stuart Elden and Lisa Parks.



Information about enrollment:

The symposium is open to all interested, but requires registration.

For questions and registration, please contact

Participation fee of NOK 100,- covers lunch and refreshments.


Our conception of space is presently undergoing significant changes. While issues concerning the constant redrawing of territories and security measurements caused by increased mobility, organized terror and prolonged colonization continue to gain precedence, we also face an ever intensified and unhinged financial capitalism propelling increased differences along spatial divisions such as gated communities, gentrification of neighborhoods, privatization of public and air space and neoliberal property speculation. This is again linked to the more than human rights concerns of resource deficiency, global warming and climate change and the geological epoch of the Anthropocene. While these changes are simultaneously propelled and remediated by an exponential proliferation of digital and networked technologies, scholarly work often fail to inquire the technological assemblages that produce them.

In geography especially, territory, sovereignty and human experience have long been flattened by a paradoxical reliance on flat maps – and, more recently, aerial and satellite images – projected or imaged from the disembodied bird’s or God’s eye view from high above (Stephen Graham, 2016). This symposium therefore directs particular attention to recent calls across spatial disciplines to expand space and its mapping from horizontal, plane surface to vertical dimensionality and volume. The one-day symposium «Technologies of Space: Verticality, Volume, Infrastructure» interrogates this entwinement by foregrounding its material infrastructures, be it of code or cables, and their experiential, territorial and geopolitical repercussions. In what ways do space and media technologies intersect today to produce new real and imaginative geographies and (thus) new configurations of power? And how could specific issues related to the contemporary productions of space best be approached? How could the different research perspectives and approaches inherent within the major spatial sciences of architecture, geography and infrastructure combine efforts to address such complex issues?


09.45: Coffee and registration

10:00: Welcome

10:15 – 11.50: Chair: Susanne Ø. Sæther
10:20: Stuart Elden (University of Warwick): "Terrains Volume"

11.20: Q&A
11:50: Lunch

13:00-14.35: Chair: Eivind Røssaak

13:05: Lisa Parks (Massachusetts Institute of Technology): "Orbital Platforms and Vertical Mediation"

14:05: Q&A

14:35: Coffee Break

15:00-16:35 Chair: Timotheus Vermeulen

15:05: Mark Dorrian (University of Edinburgh): "Archaeologies of the Future: On Crypts, Capsules and Catastrophe"

16.05: Q&A

The symposium will end before 17:00.



Stuart Elden "Terrains Volume"

If we think about territory’s relation to volume, it is essential to fully account for its materiality. This lecture suggests that terrain is a useful concept to think about the materiality of territory in three dimensions. Terrain combines geophysical issues alongside strategic ones, and shows how we need to go beyond narrow understandings of territory. All attempts at fixing territorial boundaries and shaping territories, and the legal regimes in, above and beyond them are complicated by dynamic features of the Earth. These would include such physical features as rivers, oceans, polar-regions, glaciers, airspace and the sub-surface – both the sub-soil and the sub-marine. Terrain encompasses the built infrastructure, the physical landscape and their interrelation. Terrain makes possible, or constrains, various political, military and strategic projects. It is where the geopolitical and the geophysical meet. How should political-legal understandings of territory and its volume better account for the complexities of the geophysical?

Lisa Parks “Orbital Platforms and Vertical Mediation”

During the 1960s, US leaders celebrated the satellite as a global communication technology that would unify people and countries across the planet and accelerate modernization. By the 1970s, leaders from non-aligned countries perceived these twin dreams of unification and modernization as specious because they had been largely excluded from orbital projects and had yet to reap the benefits of satellite technology. Orbit had become yet another domain of haves and have-nots. Within the historical conjuncture of the war on terror, the politics of orbital control have shifted again. In this talk, I explore US efforts to reassert vertical hegemony after the 9/11 attacks—attacks that spectacularly ruptured US control of aerial, spectral, and orbital domains. Drawing on US military and satellite industry documents, launch records, and international press reports, I discuss a series of high-powered satellites by the National Reconnaissance Office, the refinement and expansion of global positioning satellite systems, and military-corporate partnerships in the satellite sector. I demonstrate that US expansion of orbital platforms has been an integral yet often neglected dimension of the war on terror, which has enabled a new logistics of surveillance defined as vertical mediation.

Mark Dorrian "Archaeologies of the Future: On Crypts, Capsules and Catastrophe"

My talk will examine a specific kind of 'technology of verticality' – that of the time capsule.  More particularly, it will focus on the capsules that were buried alongside one another in Flushing Meadows, Queens, where the two mid-century New York World's Fairs were held.  Interred respectively in 1939 and 1964, the time capsule idea was developed and promoted by the science-fiction author, rocketeer and publicist G. Edward Pendray, who was employed by the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company.  Taking his cue from contemporary thanatological projects, most notably Thornwell Jacobs's 'Crypt of Civilisation' at Oglethorpe University, Pendray swept away their dusty necrological associations and in effect reconstituted them for the rocket age in the form of a sleek and shining missile launched through time.  In his study of the 19th and early-20th c. 'Century Chests', Nick Yablon has suggested that the 'microscosmic' time capsule emerges within a cultural horizon of catastrophe, and I will explore this theme in relation to the World's Fair capsules.  Symptomatically, the contemporary accounts and ceremonies associated with the Westinghouse capsules oscillate between celebrations of endurance and intimations of mortality and collapse.  In this regard, the time capsules look like a form of Derridean 'survivance', whereby a civilisation mourns itself in advance – symbolically buries itself through its cultural artifacts – while at the same time laying a claim upon the world-to-come by projecting itself toward a far-future target date.


Mark Dorrian holds the Forbes Chair in Architecture at the University of Edinburgh and is Co-Director of the art, architecture and urbanism atelier Metis. His work spans topics in architecture and urbanism, art history and theory, and media studies. Recent books include Writing on the Image: Architecture, the City and the Politics of Representation and Seeing From Above: The Aerial View in Visual Culture 

Stuart Elden is Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick, UK. He is the author of seven books, including works on territory, Michel Foucault, Martin Heidegger, and Henri Lefebvre. He is currently working on aspects of territory in Shakespeare’s plays; on the concept of terrain; on Lefebvre’s writings on rural issues; and the very early Foucault.

Lisa Parks is Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Director of the Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab at MIT. Her research is focused on three areas: satellite technologies and media cultures; critical studies of media infrastructures; and media, militarization and surveillance. Before joining the CMS faculty at MIT, Parks was Professor and former Department Chair of Film and Media Studies at UC Santa Barbara, where she also served as Director of the Center for Information Technology and Society. Parks is the author of Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual (Duke UP, 2005), Coverage: Vertical Mediation and the War on Terror (Routledge, forthcoming), and Mixed Signals: Media Infrastructures and Cultural Geographies (in progress). She is co-editor of: Life in the Age of Drones (Duke UP, forthcoming 2017), Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures (U of Illinois, 2015), Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries and Cultures (Rutgers UP, 2012), Undead TV (Duke UP, 2007), and Planet TV: A Global Television Reader (NYU, 2003).

Published Nov. 7, 2016 9:51 AM - Last modified Apr. 8, 2020 3:07 PM