Defense speech for the small eyes of the airspace

The Good Drone, How Social Movements Democratize Surveillance
Forfatter: Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick
Forlag: The MIT Press (USA)
AIR SPIES / Drones are not only the tools of power, but also of counter-power. They can be airspace hackers and can be used in the good service.


In 1857 the poet wrote Justin Kerner about his fear of what would happen to the airspace in the future. He saw the heavenly tranquility be sabotaged by the spirit of mechanical mobility, by technology and the alarming advances. In the poem "Under the Sky" he writes about what he thought was rain dripping from above, but which turned out to be a leak from a flying oil barrel. Elsewhere in the poem he writes: "I look to the sky, to be sure / About why it is so dark / I discover a draft of goods, which sails past the sun."

Kerner may have been right about something, even though the market has hardly been able – or will be able to – cause a solar eclipse right yet. Yet he had no idea what the airspace would actually be used for in the future: that it could now be filled with flying eyes, so small that one could barely see them, and that they could even shoot and kill. Remote controlled, or off own will.

The use of drones has exploded in recent years, both commercially and militarily. At the same time, technological innovation has gained a particularly bad reputation. In the book The Good Drone trying Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick to offset the drone's bad reputation. The book is about how drones can be used to make the world a better place and how drones, especially those equipped with cameras, have a democratizing effect and hold a potential for social change.

But what about the war drone?

Choi-Fitzpatrick is Professor of Political Sociology at the University of San Diego. Among other things, he has had his students investigate what drones are mainly used for. They concluded that the majority of all drone use in the world today takes place with altruistic motives, such as documenting human rights violations, as well as climate research and documentation.

The drone, well marked together with other aerotechnological equipment, carries a social potential for change.

But it is not a simple project Choi-Fitzpatrick has started with. The cleansing of the drone's name also means that he more or less chooses to jump over the big and difficult questions associated with cunning drone warfare. Then one must rather resort to Grégoire Chamayou's book Drone Theory, which elaborates on the ethical and philosophical premises that underlie the use of drones in warfare.

I Drone Theory Chamayou claims, among other things, that since war is traditionally defined as a duel, drones are not included in the concept of warfare. Instead, he believes drones in war today are rather used as in the ongoing war on terror. There, war drones fall under a hunting concept, as the war on terror is unlimited in time and space and takes place on what Chamayou calls a global hunting ground. In addition, he introduces the concept necroethics – the ethics of how to kill well – which can be traced back to the invention of the French guillotine.

From vertical to horizontal monitoring

As the subtitle of the book reveals, the book is nevertheless about surveillance, another of the typical concerns about the drone as a phenomenon.

He never says it explicitly in the book, but behind his argument it shines through that George Orwell's time as a sacred encyclopedia for all that has to do with surveillance may be over. In the same way that literary Marxism has a useful awakening and awareness in it, so does the novel 1984 the. But they both have in common that they relate to a society and a societal problem where the puzzle pieces no longer fit.

Like Justinus Kerner, who feared a solar eclipse trade in the airspace, Orwell has lost touch with reality as an instrumental basic premise in understanding a surveillance society. Surveillance in our time, as a phenomenon in the 21st century, does not just happen from the top down as in 1984 – far from it. The surveillance in our modern societies is rather horizontal. It is also interactive. And algorithmically.

Such a monitoring understanding fits into Choi-Fitzpatricks attempts to nuance the view of drones. He believes that instead of just cementing state authority and leading to a captivating society of control, they can actually assist as a democratic equalizer in an already heavily monitored world. The drone, along with other aerotechnological equipment, carries a social potential for change: "Camera-equipped drones do for the atoms of open air what hackers have done for the bits and bytes of the Internet", he writes. New technology opens up new spaces. And new policies. Where previously only satellites and expensive helicopters, loaded with economic and political capital, had access, commercial cheap drones can now enter – controlled by anyone. As the American professor points out, it can give the world new and important narratives.

Drones as counterforce

Choi-Fitzpatrick gives several examples of how drones used to make the world a better place, how they add new, important perspectives, such as how they can easily measure and showcase the number of protesters in the streets, show the loss of rainforest, and not least how walls and fences have lost much of their meaning after drones became widely available.

However, the most relevant example of the importance of a drone "in the right hands" is the fresh and revealing images from China, where Uighur Muslims on their knees and blindfolds are led into a train in what looks like an organized genocide with the methods of Nazism as a model.

Choi-Fitzpatrick has noble motives in showing the good in drones. He is right in opening up a new space for academic discourse and highlighting the importance of discussing the impact of a new technology. At the same time, the book bears the imprint of printing out the obvious, nor diminishing the fear of drones in error or no S hands.

For when man first ascended and received a panoramic sweep of the ground below, a gaze only God had had, we crossed borders. When the mechanical plane took off from the strip, ancient mythologies were realized, one hovered in the sky. Then came the bomber. Not only did one have the gaze of God, suddenly one was put in charge of judging the living from the dead. With the most well-developed drones, there is no longer a need for the man behind such a steering wheel, but enough with an independently armed techno-bird with relatively free will.

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