Media Ecologies of the ‘Extractive View’

Image Operations of Material Exchange


  • Gökçe Önal TU Delft




Extraction displaces materials and reorganises habitats by accumulating resources – a process that renders populations and natural reserves as extractable data to be mobilised in systems of metabolic exchange. In contemporary practice, collecting, sorting, and processing this data require a complex interoperability between sensors, computing platforms, and databases before they are made into earth observation images. Following the scholarly research on the instrumentality of aerial survey in histories of extractive colonialism, this essay sheds light on the extractive capacity of remote sensing technologies in contemporary mining industries. Engaging with the media infrastructures of resource exploration, the inquiry revisits Heidi Scott’s theory of ‘colonialism’s vertical third dimension’ and extends it from the physical to the sensory, numerical, and temporal domains of extractivism. After Sean Cubitt’s classification of mediated earth observation, the three geomedia, the discussion is organised in three parts: electromagnetic sensing, numerical translations, and financial futures. A media-archaeological analysis of earth observation systems brings forth the extractive codes of the remote view by revealing its selective, vectoral, and speculative capacities in tapping the earth and ordering its resources into materials of exchange.

Keywords: extractive view, mining industries, remote sensing, geomedia, digital image, aerial surveillance, urbanisation, datafication

Author Biography

Gökçe Önal, TU Delft

Gökçe Önal is a PhD candidate at TU Delft Faculty of Architecture with the research group Border & Territories. She has  taught in METU (2013–16) and TU Delft (2016–17), and contributed to the development of the TU Delft-based MOOC project ‘Means of Architectural Design’ (2017–19). Her doctoral research investigates remote sensing practices and digitisation in relation to the developing cultures of architecture.


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