Une affiche dénonçant les attaques de drones américaines au Yémen, REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Drone Warfare: Twenty-First Century Empire and Communications

Kevin Howley

Abstract


This paper, part of a larger project that examines drones from a social-construction of technology perspective, considers drone warfare in light of Harold Innis’s seminal work on empire and communication. Leveraging leading-edge aeronautics with advanced optics, data processing, and networked communication, drones represent an archetypal “space-biased” technology. Indeed, by allowing remote operators and others to monitor, select, and strike targets from half a world away, and in real-time, these weapon systems epitomize the “pernicious neglect of time” Innis sought to identify and remedy in his later writing. With Innis’s time-space dialectic as a starting point, then, the paper considers drones in light of a longstanding paradox of American culture: the impulse to collapse the geographical distance between the United States and other parts of the globe, while simultaneously magnifying the cultural difference between Americans and other peoples and societies. In the midst of the worldwide proliferation of drones, this quintessentially sublime technology embodies this (dis)connect in important, profound, and ominous ways.

Keywords


: drone; empire; Innis; time-space dialectic; war on terror

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