As Above, So Below – Drone Cultures Colloquium 2014
The military use of aerial drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, has in recent years instigated huge controversy, dispute and protest. There continues to be much debate over the social and political implications of drone warfare, not least here in Lincoln, where, for the past year, the county has been home to the RAF’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft Squadron. As wartime base to the Lancaster bomber, Lincolnshire is, to many, still ‘Bomber County’, and today the UK’s provision of armed Reaper drones, which operate in Afghanistan on surveillance and combat missions, are controlled remotely from a base less than five miles from our university campus. The issues raised are, then, strikingly clear: the ethics of extrajudicial killing, the relation between ‘surgical’ strikes and ‘collateral’ civilian deaths, the diffusion of the conventional ‘battlefield’, the implications of the commercial use of drones in civilian airspace, the psychological effects of exerting power from a distance.
Though motivated by these issues, this one-day colloquium has been convened in order to examine the broader questions relating to the drone as a cultural concept and, in its virtual potentials, as a more complex set of transformations which extend beyond the actuality of the unmanned aerial vehicle. Specifically, drone culture is understood here as a symptom of what McKenzie Wark has called ‘vectoral’ power, a power that, constituted by flows of information, operates in abstract communicational space so as to exploit perception at a distance. In this sense, the cultural significance of the drone is inseparable from the newly complex processes of mediation unique to the 21st century. This event will map the immanent forces of drone culture across a variety of disciplines and phenomena, and in doing so disclose its various political and ethico-aesthetic expressions.
Professor Benjamin Noys
University of Chichester
Professor Derek Gregory
University of British Columbia