Instagram REALLY wasn’t made for this…

















Some great posts on Dronestagram in the last few days. The Guardian ran a world news post on it this Monday, as did The Atlantic, here. Although David Gregory does the leg-work required to make sense of this over at his Geographical Imaginations blog, here. I’m going to re-quote what David has already quoted over at GI because it speaks to everything that’s critical about the kinds of technological distancing that goes on in drone warfare, and it’s by Dronestagram’s creator, James Bridle:

The political and practical possibilities of drone strikes are the consequence of invisible, distancing technologies, and a technologically-disengaged media and society. Foreign wars and foreign bodies have always counted for less, but the technology that was supposed to bring us closer together is used to obscure and obfuscate. We use military technologies like GPS and Kinect for work and play; they continue to be used militarily to maim and kill, ever further away and ever less visibly.

Yet at the same time we are attempting to build a 1:1 map of the world through satellite and surveillance technologies, that does allow us to see these landscapes, should we choose to go there. These technologies are not just for “organising” information, they are also for revealing it, for telling us something new about the world around us, rendering it more clearly.

History, like space, is coproduced by us and our technologies: those technologies include satellite mapping, social photo sharing from handheld devices, and fleets of flying death robots. We should engage with them at every level. These are just images of foreign landscapes, still; yet we have got better at immediacy and intimacy online: perhaps we can be better at empathy too.

I mean, come on, that’s such a rich chunk of text – a real, intelligent conceptualization of the US drone war project. James identifies everything that drone warfare pertains to be; bloodless, clinical, and distanced. He also brings together the war technologies of drone control and the play technologies of front-room computer gaming. He tells us that these technologies do more than ‘present’, more than ‘organize’: he tells us they engage and immediate and that we can do a whole lot better than confine them to other, a-sensorial worlds.  

Telegraph and Modern War

Derek Gregory has a fantastic post on the role of the telegraph in modern war over at his Geographical Imaginations blog. In a post called ‘Bodies on the wire’, he points to a bunch of new ideas he wants to follow up on. They revolve around the historical role of war media and, specifically the place of the telegraph in the communication of the Crimean War. He also notes Jan Mieszkowski‘s argument that…

 one of the crucial dilemmas of modern war is the disconnect between the participant’s sensory disorientation (‘To be under fire is to experience the loss of control of one’s own signifying practices’) and the abstraction (or ‘perspective’) of distant observers.

When I relate this to the use of digital (mapping) technologies during protest, I’m interested to see whether we can apply the same sort of thinking. It seems to me that this dis/orientation is a notable continuum; and that often, an intimacy with modern technology (in the way of touch-gestures on a mobile device) leads to a difficulty in maintaining a kind of abstraction or perspective of the distant observer. A tactile primacy, I guess. But of course, the kinds of moves made on a mobile device are in some way creating these abstractions too – straight from the heart of the action.


Postcolonial theory is dead! Long live postcolonial theory?

Clive Barnett, over at his blog Pop Theory, puts to bed some of the concerns I had at the time (and have since mulled over) with my UG dissertation on postcolonialism (direct link here). Almost as soon as I’d finished it, bound it and received my final mark I was over that tricky Saidian/Gregorian alliance.

I still think those working in the broad field of postcolonial studies have a lot to offer, and I do believe textual-historical analyses of colonial media deserve continued attention, just the Saidian discourse of Orientalism has become stagnant. Those pesky non-reppers at Bristol did a lot to shift the focus, at least in Human Geography.