/* */

20 May 2007

Thinking spatially in the Parallel World and beyond

We are quite used to grappling here with the issues created by the emerging importance of the Parallel World of the nets in the consideration of current and future intelligence challenges. It is one of our enduring areas of fascination – from the conflicts to the concepts. Over at the End of Cyberspace blog, there has been an ongoing locus in the conversation for some time now on what exactly the generation after next communications technologies will look like, which we have been following based on its implications for our interests.

The fine authors there now note a particularly interesting paper by Nigel Thrift, which although burdened with a regrettable volume of academic jargon and fuzziness, raises interesting concepts regarding the conceptualization of space, time and communication.

Those that recognize our long-standing interest in the convergence of these subjects will note the similarity to the Proteus Insight of Starlight. As the original Proteus study’s authors wrote:

“Perspective is everything. Not until late in the 19th century did science discover that the night sky has depth as well as breadth, that constellations not only are in the eye of the beholder, that they are distant illusions. By the early 20th century, when quantum physics wed astronomy, the illusion became deeper. However we characterize the apparent pattern of the clusters, the light we see in Manassas or Arizona takes about 400 years to reach us from the nearest star in the group. Each night in the sky, there appears an event that is already over. We are seeing the past in the Present.
"We can think of no better metaphor than Starlight to characterize the central problem for the Intelligence Community as it looks toward the future. Whether we examined the world of a criminal mastermind, of virulent disease, or a high-technology space race, the pattern of events in that world commonly turned on three characteristics: complexity, venues, and time - all of which can be captured in the metaphor of Starlight.”
We find these mirrored in the focus of the Thrift paper, which outlines the transformative effects of technological contexts on human activities, in particular focusing on time-space, sensorium (perception), and language.

We are particularly struck by the line “Vocabularies of spatial configuration will multiply.” One of the more difficult aspects we have found in teaching geospatial and imagery intelligence disciplines to new analysts is the lack of the ability to verbalize many key concepts, except through abstraction or practical demonstration. It is for the lack of such vocabulary that we believe these particular disciplines have so long languished in the academic intelligence studies field, and that the traditional players within the intel academy have so poorly addressed geospatial and imagery education needs. (In addition to the barriers to entry posed by systems technology support requirements or access to high quality imagery sources, Google Earth notwithstanding).

The academy’s failures in the area of geospatial intelligence education are sorely in need of correction. Thankfully, it seems that hope is in the horizon, as the US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation pursues its efforts to spread a model curriculum throughout the intelligence studies field. We wish them the best in their labors, and deeply hope that the increased focus in this area will yield not only new solutions to the classic real world spatial intelligence problems, but those of the Parallel World, and the interactions between the two planes as well.

Labels: , , ,