There is debate on whether remote sensing is considered an art or a science. However, like many tools and processes, remote sensing can be a form that intersects the worlds of both fields. In fact, Wilson states that “The world of science has pursued [an] interest in theory and underlying structures with increasing speed, spreading into most areas of inquiry…Stimulated by developments in science and the advent of the computer, [artists] explore abstract structures and processes” (Wilson, 297). In a similar, yet different fashion, driven by a desire to understand more about the structures and processes of life that scientists and researchers explore, artists create works and generate new perspectives of knowledge on the those same structures and processes. In this sense, remote sensing is a blend of science, technology, and art as a “tool that helps obtain and interpret information about an area, object, or phenomenon through analysis by analyzing data acquired by a device that is not in physical direct contact with the object, area, or phenomenon under investigation”. “Remote sensing satellites capture the reflected energy at each several narrow bands of wavelengths of light, including visible and infra-red” (Research Methods in Remote Sensing). Remote sensing acts as a field of science in the way that it acts as a system to acquire knowledge through observation and experimentation to describe a natural phenomenon. That being said, it also acts as a form of art in that remote sensing applies creative skill and imagination in interpreting the data and images that are retrieved. In addition to interpretation, remote sensing requires a use of applied arts in creating visual knowledge that can utilize efficiency of colors and compatibility in an effort to contribute to better visual interpretation and observance.
Although remote sensing can be used for scientific purposes to extract information from the earth through images and is best suited for studying environmental processes, it also hints at an underlying theme of surveillance and infringement upon privacy. It acts as a form of aerial gaze and contributes to the notion of an omniscient view overseeing the earth. It situates the image to be interpreted that by capturing the form from a vantage point and obliterating perspective by creating a map-like view. As society advances and transitions into an era where technology is more prominent, who is to say that remote sensing will only be geared to analyzing structures and formations of the earth?
~ Amber Tang 🙂