Drones, Governance and Civil Society in Southeast Asia
Fri 14:00-15:30 Room 3.06
- Monika Arnez Palacký University in Olomouc
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Above the ground, beneath the sky: The emotional politics of drone practices
Monika Arnez Palacký University
This paper opens with a vignette about my personal experience with drone imagery during the floods in Germany in the summer of 2021. My experience is a clear example of the relationship between “drone practices” and the generation of emotions related to what has been called the opaqueness of the elevated view (Ellis 2017: iv-iiv). Focusing attention on the notion of “drone practices” (Fish and Richardson 2021) rather than “the drone” as a particular technological device, allows us to engage with the use or manifestation of drones, whether on the ground, in the air, in popular culture, or in everyday politics, as processes of cultural mediation. Within these processes, it is argued, emotions play a pivotal role. Although the emotion-producing power of drones has been addressed elsewhere (Zuev and Bratchford 2020: 452), this has been limited to contexts concerning the potential of drones to entertain (Waibel et al. 2017). This paper contributes to our insights into how the temporal dimension shapes entanglements between the bird
s eye and worms eye perspectives (cf. Ellis 2017), which is central to the immersive feeling people may experience when engaging in drone practices. Part of a joint book project with Irene Stengs and is based on fieldwork in Malaysia and Thailand, it zooms in on the contestations around the creation of artificial islands, based on my fieldwork in Peninsular Malaysia in 2018/2019.
Drone, de facto water rights and smart farming in Thailand
Manoj Potapohn Chiang Mai University
Uses of drone for arial surveillance of natural resource are proliferating and with an overhaul of water institution, one has reasons to be hopeful for prospect of technology upgrade of farming sector in Thailand. This paper will discuss (a) situational analysis on uses of drone in Thailand, (b) everyday farmers negotiation under culture-legal and empowerment under the new water law and (c) an emerging trend and an assessment framework of smart farming potential for better lives of farmers in Thailand’s food production system.
Swarm Drones and the Protocols of Killings: engaging civil societies in conversations on warfare
Tintin Wulia University of Gothenburg
How can we politically employ the aesthetic imaginary of drones beyond its novelty as a new technology of the future? Most drone art deals with the fascination of its aesthetics in terms of image-making potentials and the unprecedented threats of its militaristic functions (e.g., Danchev 2016, Paglen 2012, Bridle 2012). Challenging this trope, in this lecture-performance I question the image of drones as unprecedented machines for distant killings. I argue that the futuristic imaginary of the drones is akin to critical geopolitics scholar John Agnew’s ‘territorial trap’ (1994). Like the border imaginary obscuring our vision of the complexity of cross-territorial international relationship, the futuristic drones imaginary obscures our cross-temporal and cross-historical perspectives. Hence, following a materiality framework (Homqvist 2013, Walters 2014), I propose to revisit significant past and historical cases to demystify drones’ distant killings. One of these is a Southeast Asian case, one of the largest, least discussed, and most unresolved political massacres in the world: the Indonesian mass killings of 1965-66 (Kim 2002, Skretteberg 2015). While little is publicly known about the militaristic swarm drones’ technologies currently in development, recently declassified US foreign office archives that show major democracies’ involvements in the Indonesian killings may provide insights into distant killings. They may show patterns of group dynamics that could resemble the communication and decision chain protocols of militaristic swarm drones, a future technology of distantkillings. This is the rationale of the artistic research project Protocols of Killings: 1965, distance, and the ethics of future warfare (Swedish Research Council funded, 2021-23). Through embodied participatory performances of group dynamics patterns from these archives, the project aims to shed light on how new findings on the Indonesian mass killings 1965-66 can engage civil societies in conversations on the ethics of future warfare.
Unmanned, camera-equipped drones are often associated with state surveillance of particular territories in Southeast Asia, whether in the South China Sea, for border security or suppression of protest movements. They are a cost-effective means of monitoring and surveillance. Unmanned drones are also increasingly used by civil society as they are affordable, require little knowledge to operate and the low probability of causing physical harm to humans (Floreano, Wood 2015). Drones create knowledge by taking aerial photographs of landscapes, events and places that are not easily captured in other ways. This panel invites contributors to address the opportunities and obstacles that drones present in Southeast Asia. Panellists are invited to reflect on the spaces and opportunities in which drones are used, how and why their use is regulated differently in various Southeast Asian countries, and what the political agendas are. In Thailand, for example, videographers have used drones to film violence against protesters (Viernes 2020). How are drones used in protest movements and state control? To what extent are they used in political campaigns?
Another area of interest is how drones are used in environmental conservation, such as ecosystem monitoring, wildlife research and management and ecotourism (López, Pázmány 2019). A case in point is Greenpeace using 300 drones to prompt action on conserving the environment in one of their videos. How are drones used for conservational purposes by conservationists in Southeast Asia? Drones are also employed in artwork and in film. Videographers have used them to capture beautiful images of cities or special places, they are used in films or are part of art installations that are uploaded and made available on public platforms such as YouTube. What aesthetic components of drone images can be identified? How are they used alongside other modes of artistic expression?