The current contradictory moment in human history can be understood as one of rational order, rapid transformation, and global integration, on the one hand, and of cultural dissonance, social disintegration, and rampant disorder, on the other. Drones vividly and viciously capture this moment, while also regenerating it, as Hamid Ekbia shows in his work.
Imagine a world where every state, every agency, every enterprise, and, potentially, every individual would fly their own drones across borders, towns, walls, and fences. Based on these visions-and through an ironic reversal-Hamid Ekbia intends to turn technologies that are deemed a means of gaze and surveillance into objects of gaze and scrutiny themselves. Conceptualizing drones as cultural forms, he examines their capacity for the regeneration of (dis)order at three levels: (i) Psychological Disorder, in which individuals and communities on both sides of drone warfare become susceptible to various psychological problems; (ii) Societal Disorder, in which, on the one hand, the sovereignty of independent nation-states is undermined by unsolicited attacks on their citizens, thereby undermining traditional mechanisms of social cohesion; and, on the other, citizens of the perpetrating countries become desensitized to war through the mediated apathy of drone warfare; and (iii) Global Disorder, in which the real prospect of the spread of drones as weapons of choice by state and non-state actors elevates the fear of an unregulated, uncontrollable, and violent geopolitical environment to a global level.
Hamid Ekbia is Associate Professor of Informatics, Cognitive Science, and International Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he also directs the Center for Research on Mediated Interaction. He is currently IFK_Senior Fellow.