As above, so below: triangulating drone culture

Coley, Rob, Lockwood, Dean and OMeara, Adam (2014) As above, so below: triangulating drone culture. In: As Above, So Below: A Colloquium on Drone Culture, 24 May, 2014, University of Lincoln.

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What is drone culture? If we were to survey some of its more recognizable manifestations, we might draw up a list which includes the diffusion of the conventional battlefield, the supposed precision of surgical strikes, and a system of seeing and killing from thousands of miles away. These are the activities of a power that – to us at least – remains largely invisible, for political as much as technical reasons. There is, then, a certain paradox to drone culture: the drone communicates something that *must not* be communicated. The drone is redacted: hidden in plain sight, present but opaque. Accordingly, though we can describe a culture in which the drone, and the consequences of the drone, are normalized, are integral to an increasingly dominant logic of power, the task of expressing this culture in its material, experiential terms proves to be more difficult. So if we had to search for images, we might seize upon the officially sanctioned: Predators, Reapers, military control rooms. But if these images simply underline the invisibility of what takes place behind and beyond them – if they are essentially failures – then we can find different kinds of failure in different cultural expressions of the drone. Specifically, we can find images that are less interesting for their attempts to represent a hidden object and more interesting for the extent to which they draw attention to hiddenness *in itself*. Again, paradoxically, we find this expressed in the drone as zeitgeist, as the omnipresent object of a surveillance culture, of a culture of big data, of a computational culture. This is the drone that appears in pop videos, in marketing campaigns, in political advertisements. Here, our images might be more speculative. They might be generated in the fever dreams of entrepreneurs, they might come with brand names, like ‘PrimeAir’, as in Jeff Bezos’s latest vision, or else they might be dystopian, they might come with slogans like ‘YES WE SCAN’, and ‘1984 is now’, they might take the form of fluorescent peace-drones circling a group of dancers in a tower block courtyard, as in the new video released this week by M.I.A. How, then do we respond critically to both types of image? How do we engage with a phenomenon that is simultaneously invisible and utterly visible? How do we map the middleness of this experience? These are the questions that have motivated this project.

Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
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ID Code:14156
Deposited On:28 May 2014 08:08

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