Parks, Lisa. Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005. Paperback. 256 pages. ISBN 0-8223-3497-6. $22.95
Reviewed by Lamees M. El Baghdady
Cultures in Orbit is a critical paradigm of both television and cultural studies. Unlike previous research, which has focused mainly on direct satellite broadcasting and global entertainment, Parks analyzes the military, scientific and cultural uses of satellite "with a specific goal in mind: to rethink, complicate, and extend critical definitions of the televisual.” The book also integrates feminist criticism, science and technology studies, and cultural geography.
Parks emphasizes that “satellite television” is a site for "technological convergence” that integrates several technologies, such as remote sensing, live international transmission, and astronomical observation. Parks analyzes these activities and argues that they have affected the meaning of "the global” and the “televisual,” influencing culture as satellite television convergence resulted in the rise of audiovisual formats, which in turn led to new forms of satellite content.
Throughout Cultures in Orbit, Park argues that “satellite television is a technology of knowledge” and stresses that the televisual should not be limited to public service broadcasting or commercial uses, but should focus on producing and circulating knowledge through public education, commercial entertainment, military monitoring, and scientific observation.
Cultures in Orbit introduces a new perspective on the culture of the satellite. This book would benefit those interested in media studies, cultural studies, technology studies, visual studies and globalization studies.