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Visual Culture Program

Tuesday, May 14, 2019
12:00pm to 1:00pm
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Beckman Behavioral Biology B180
A Crash History of Drones
Katherine Chandler, Assistant Professor of Culture and Politics, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University,
  • Public Event

This talk is about failures of unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, using several examples from throughout the twentieth century—including in Bosnia, where the Los Angeles Times in 1995 described drones as having "crash[ed] like apples falling off a tree."

A range of visual and textual materials document the history of drone use and failure. In unmanned aircraft, media connect operator and airframe through radio, data, and image transmission. During spy missions and reconnaissance flights, drone aircraft captured aerial photographs and later transmitted video and infrared images before they became bombing platforms.

Drone dysfunction, and the media that records these histories, challenges a strict division between human and machine. The records show instead how the non-human status of the drone served political goals and was negotiated in terms that were cultural and visual as much as they were technical. This history shifts the ethical stakes of drone aircraft from the system itself to ask instead, "who is the human counterpart that is the backdrop to unmanning?"

Lunch will be served at 11:55 a.m. Click here to RSVP

Speaker Bio
Chandler's research examines the intersection of technology, media, and politics through a range of scales and forms. Her first book project, Unmanning: How Humans, Machines and Media Perform Drone Warfare, is forthcoming from Rutgers University Press in 2020. The monograph studies failed pilotless aircrafts built by the American military between 1936-1992 to show how the early systems produce and contest the parameters of drone warfare today. Her most recent work studies how politics are negotiated through everyday media and technologies, including PowerPoint, email, and drone aircraft deployed for commercial, humanitarian, and medical purposes. She received her PhD from the Department of Rhetoric at UC Berkeley with a designated emphasis in New Media. Her work has been published in Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies; Humanity: International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development; Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience; and qui parle: Critical Humanities and Social Science. Her second project, Drone Publics, is funded through Georgetown University's competitive pilot grant program.

About the Visual Culture Program
The Caltech-Huntington Program in Visual Culture, which is funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and based in the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), features new undergraduate course offerings, guest lecturers, and other programming to foster conversations between humanists and scientists. Its activities are organized by HSS and other Caltech faculty in collaboration with scholars at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

For more information, please contact Caroline Murphy by phone at 626-395-2084 or by email at caroline@caltech.edu.