Human Rights and Remote Sensing

Type: Virtual Paper
Sponsor Groups: Ethics, Justice, and Human Rights Specialty Group, Remote Sensing Specialty Group, Political Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM (PDT)
Room: Virtual 48
Organizers: James Walker
Chairs: James Walker

Call for Submissions

This CFP calls for papers that look to engage with any and all aspect of the rise of remote sensing technologies within a human rights context. Topics of interest include (but are definitely not limited to):

• The role of RS in international Human Rights investigations
• Crowd sourced investigation and “Digital Humanitarianism”
• RS imagery as documentation and/or evidence in IHR violations
• The impact of GEOINT diffusion into civil society organizations
• The evolution and usage of online geo-spatial platforms
• Community voices vs. professionalization in RS analysis
• Developments in human rights RS visualizations, beyond RGB analysis
• The rise of AI and machine learning algorithms as IHR monitoring tools
• Geo-location techniques for verification of social media and video data
• Deliberate misrepresentation or faking of geo-spatial content

The organizers hope to engage with a broad cross section of scholars interested in RS and human rights. Papers that look to advance either theoretical and/or practical aspects of RS use in human rights contexts are very welcome.

If you would like to join us for this cross-disciplinary discussion, please submit abstracts to James Walker (


The adoption of remote sensing (RS) technologies by human rights actors has led to a significant increase in the use of maps, satellite & drone imagery, and other forms of geographic representations in their reporting on events across the globe. Geo-spatial data provide a powerful means of identifying social, political, and economic forms of violence and injustice. Images of burnt villages, VGI sourced crisis maps, and the scraping of social media data are becoming ubiquitous – and some might argue essential – aspects of modern human rights campaigns. In addition, the ever expanding capacity - both temporal and spatial - of the private corporate satellite industry, along with the exponential rise in reliable and affordable consumer/off the shelf UAVs, means that remotely sensed data has never been easier to obtain, or more affordable, even for smaller civil society groups and activist communities.

Scholars and activists alike have sought to promote best practices, and to expand the boundaries of RS use through a variety of techniques and visualizations. At the same time, RS adoption raises a number of concerns, including the manipulation of data by untrained or malicious actors, the supposed objectivity of digitally captured data sets, cartographic framing, questions of access, diversity, and “professionalization”, and other forms of ethical and representational interests. In essence, there is a lot to talk about.

This panel provides an opportunity for scholars to engage in a cross-disciplinary conversation about the technical, practical, and theoretical impacts afforded by RS as it expands into the human rights arena.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter James Walker*, University of California - Los Angeles, Evolving practices of remote sensing data use by international human rights organizations. 15 11:10 AM
Presenter Volker Hochschild*, University of Tuebingen, Andreas Braun, University of Tuebingen, Monitoring of Refugee Camps by Spaceborne Remote Sensing – How Earth Observation is Able to Assist Humanitarian Aid 15 11:25 AM
Presenter Jamon Van Den Hoek*, Oregon State University, Advancing Urban Conflict Damage Monitoring with Google Earth Engine Time Series Analysis 15 11:40 AM
Presenter Jonathan Drake*, AAAS, Geospatial Evidence in International Human Rights Litigation: Technical and Legal Challenges 15 11:55 AM

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