Hiding in plain site: drone culture or sensing Africa remotely

224, Arts building, Danford Room
Wednesday 11 December 2013 (17:00-19:00)

Speaker: Mark Duffield (Bristol and University of Birmingham)

Within the last decade, especially, the last few years, what could be called humanitarian remote sensing has entered a period of rapid innovation. Combining satellite imagery, open-access mapping tools and, increasingly, the mining of real-time Big Data, or social media, remote sensing promises to revolutionise liberal interventionism in Africa’s challenging environments. However, as a risk reduction strategy, this is occurring at the same time as the bunkerisation of the international aid industry and the increasing remoteness of aid managers from the societies in which they work. The talk takes a critical look at how African populations are understood, retrieved and modelled digitally for purposes of remote management. It also explores the growing overlap – spatially, culturally, and in terms of the digital technologies used – between what could be called ‘remote aid’ and the rise of ‘remote war’. It seeks to question what is at stake as we collectively embrace drone culture.