Session 2.2.3: PANEL: The Sensorium of the Drone

PANEL: The Sensorium of the Drone
11:30, Friday 7 May 2021 (1 hour 30 minutes)
Break   01:00 PM to 01:30 PM (30 minutes)
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Organizer: Kathrin Maurer, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

Discussant: Daniela Agostinho, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Kathrin Maurer,The Sensorium of the Drone, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

While the first wave of drone scholarship was pivotal in initiating the debate on the emergence and routinization of this technology, this scholarship can also be said to have privileged the idea of the ‘scopic regime’ when analyzing the connection between vision and power in the context of drones. Researchers have defined the scopic regime of the drone as a militarized regime of hyper-visuality executing a vertical, hierarchical, and totalized power relation between the drone operator and the surveilled target (Gregory 2011, Chamayou 2015, Shaw 2016, Noys 2017, Holland 2019). Whereas the scopic regime is certainly key to describe drone vision, this presentation aims to broaden the drone’s spectrum of perception with the notion of the sensorium as complex, multi-medial, synesthetic sensing assemblage, in which the human agent is enmeshed with the drone’s technical apparatus. Drone sensoria can sense in many more ways than the scopic regime suggests, as drone vision can be blurred, flattened, rasterized, three-dimensional, and swarm-like. This talk will discuss different drone sensoria in the aesthetic realm and investigate examples of recent drone art (films, visual art, literature). As much research focuses on military drone vision, this paper explores the sensorium of civilian, commercial, and amateur drones; although being highly aware that military and civilian remote sensing technologies can be deeply intertwined.

Rikke Munck Petersen, The dispatched drone and affective distance in fieldwork, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Drone usage in urban planning is increasing. When used in fieldwork, the dispatched drone returns moving images live on-screen, implying direct sensations for the pilot/planner. This article discusses how the human body is extended by the drone with its freely moving eyeline and its vertical and horizontal rhythms. Steering via on-screen moving images – moving oneself physically to follow the drone – has direct kinesthetic and synesthetic effects on the planner. The article examines how first- and third-person perspectives are folded together, and how the interplay of gestures (vision, rhythm, motion) is central to sensation during drone filming. Thus, the article identifies how the dispatched drone stirs affections, feelings, and touch during filming as a self-affective methodology and action. It defines distance as a felt rhythm of existence—a sensation, resonance, or immediation—that is mediated by the written account. The development of this methodological approach constitutes the article’s key contribution.

Steen Ledet Christiansen, Synesthetic Space in Drone Music Videos, Aarlborg University, Denmark

The drone is often considered to be of the air, and yet its visual imagery draws on a much longer and complex history of retinally-detached optics that not only encompasses remote vision and control, but also sensors, trackers, stabilizers, 360-degree lenses, and so on. As such, the drone’s visual imagery, curiously, at times, seems to bear less resemblance to classic aerial photography, than to the imagery produced by body mounted cameras like the GoPro, which in turn has its predecessor in the Steadycam rig. Taking music videos as a case in point, this article explores the capacities of new visual technologies as intensities, forces, and energetics, in part by comparing the drone’s visual imagery to other, earlier, forms of aerial, remote, and embodied vision that together have produced a more capacious audiovisual experience that engages more of our senses than that of vision alone. I will consider music videos as a sensory formation that challenges conventional perspectival space and instead participates in the turn to a tactile relation. Drone music videos produce a space that is organized synesthetically; challenging embodiment, since the sensual relations to the drone footage is radically different.

Andreas Immanuel Graae, Swarming sensations: robo-bees and the politics of the swarm in Black Mirror, Royal Danish Defence College, Denmark

This article investigates how robotic swarming entails new modes of sensing that not only blur the lines between human, insect and machine – and hence between natural and prosthetic sensoria – but also transcend beyond what the human sensory apparatus can possibly process and comprehend. Based on examples and analytical insights from the popular Net ix series Black Mirror the article analyzes how robotic surrogate bees capable of pollinating the world’s ora in order to prevent an ecological catastrophe is depicted in the episode “Hated in the Nation”. Thus, the article not only demonstrates how artificial intelligence and robotic swarms can expand, re ne, or disrupt the sensory capacity of human perception – it also shows how the relationship between natural and artificial swarming is troubled by historical, social, and technical ties that altogether shed new light on the idea of machine autonomy.

University of Copenhagen, Landscape Architecture and Plannng
Associate professor
Univeristy of Southern Denmark
Aalborg University
Royal Danish Defence College
Assistant Professor

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