My research agenda – a study in optimism!


Taken from the ISS – Can you guess where N. Korea is in the picture?

Greetings, loyal readers! It has been a couple of months since my last post – due (for the most part) to a combination of too much work at UCLA, and a increasing sense of doom as I read the Washington Post every morning. However, nil desperandum, as they say! Life goes on – at least for the moment – and even in the doldrums of the PhD process you occasionally come across a milestone or two. For, me, that was defending my nascent PhD research proposal a couple of weeks ago, meaning that I am now “advanced to candidacy” or ABD (All But Dissertation) as the cool kids like to call it. Huzzah!

Ostensibly, that means a couple of things – a) my TA pay goes up by some abysmally small  amount, b) I get to add “C. Phil” to my e-mail signature, and c) I actually have to start working on my research agenda. Now, I’m not going to bore you with the minutia of what I told my committee I was going to achieve over the next two years, but it did occur to me that I have never explicitly stated what it is I actually work on, here on GeoPolichinelle. So here goes…

I focus on the changing nature of the relationship between state and non-state actors on the international plane. In particular, I am interested in the ways that technology (particularly remote sensing tech such as satellites and UAVs) provides leverage for human rights INGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. This involves trying to understand how such groups view, produce, and utilize RS imagery, both for advocacy and evidentiary purposes. In other words, what does satellite and drone imagery do for human rights groups?

This kind of geopolitical analysis has a tendency to head off into odd, niche realms of interest. For me, one of the most significant is GEOINT, or “Geospatial Intelligence” gathering – a very specific way of viewing and understanding the world. For a brief overview of what that entails, I have included below a conference presentation I gave last year. The video is over an hour long, but don’t let that put you off. It includes four excellent presentations (well, 3 excellent ones, and mine), and I’m the first to speak, from 1:53 – 16:24. Enjoy!

I hope this brief window into my research has been enlightening. It certainly helped me to procrastinate away another day of my summer – a summer I promised my committee would be filled to the brim with archival research and analysis. Ah, the life of a grad student! For more insight into what being a PhD grad is all about, please check out the following link: Piled Higher & Deeper 

And now I must return to my “research” – i.e.: binge watching the entire season go “Better Call Saul” that I have on my DVR.


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