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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


Daniel Thorpe

Research Project:

Unbundling "Indigenous" Space Capability for "Societal Benefits": Actors, Policy Positons and Agency in Geospatial Information Science in Southwest Nigeria

copyright Daniel Thorpe

Recently, much has been written about the implementation of Earth observation satellites in developing countries/ emerging economies as well as about contemporaneous and entangled idea(s) of indigenous space capability and capacity building. At the same time, little attention has been paid to those, who actually use remotely sensed (Earth observation) data from space. This data shall, for example, be used in the context of ‘societal benefits’ as emphasised at the last conference of the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment in 2014. Affiliated researchers, inter alia, come from Southwest Nigeria, where one may find a geospatial information science community with a dense network of related institutions. These institutions are at the heart of my research in order to contribute to a better understanding of accompanying social processes in global geospatial information science communities that have not yet sufficiently been taken into account – involving different policy-related implications, but also opportunities for social scientists.

In the social sciences global processes of technology- and knowledge transfer are still often approached with reference to overly static concepts and theories, such as in terms of geography and culture. Despite their indisputable value, they do not yet provide an adequate understanding of the complex social processes and elements that constitute and construct a high-technology-based research environment like geospatial information science in Southwest Nigeria.  In line with this, we likewise have not yet understood what idea(s) of indigenous space capability may constitute in the context of a geospatial information science community in Southwest Nigeria and of using remote sensing data from space for societal benefits – something that my PhD research wishes to address.

Addressing these knowledge gaps in the context of theoretical and practical implications for both science and technology studies as well as for the global Earth observation community itself, involves to central aims: (1) adding micro-level data to complement macro-comparative perspectives. This shall help to amend existing theories and concepts on related technology and knowledge transfers, such as in the context of postcolonial science and technology studies. Consequently, my research also aims at (2) supporting more equitable discourses and sound policy-decisions in a global Earth observation community that faces several practical and ethical challenges.

Here, a mix of situational analysis and multi-sited ethnography is at the centre of my research, comprising methods, such as interviews with researchers at research institutions in Soutwest Nigeria that use data obtained from space- and/or airborne platforms.


Economic and Social Research Council ESRC (grant: ES/J500136/1)


Dr Lawrence Dritsas

Dr Eugénia Rodrigues


The University of Edinburgh                                                      2014 – present

PhD Student
Science and Technology Studies, ESRC 1+3

The University of Edinburgh                                                      2013 – 2014

Master of Science (MSc) by Research
Science and Technology Studies, ESRC 1+3

Goethe University Frankfurt am Main                                    2007 – 2011

Magister Artium (M.A.)
Social Anthropology, Psychology and Southeast Asian Studies

Tutor for "Technology in Society" (RCSS08003)                2017