Mark Andrejevic is one of the worlds key thinkers within the field of surveillance and over recent years he has branched out to discuss issues surrounding automation and sensing in relation to drones. In this seminar, we looked at his chapter in Drones and Unmanned Aerial Systems – Theorising Drones and Droning Theory.
One key point that Andrejevic discusses here, relates directly to McLuhan’s work on mediums and messages. He believed that the medium IS the message – it’s not the contents of an email or message that’s important, it’s the information that goes with it. Andrejevic remarks that data gathering and surveillance is much more about the who, what, when, where and why rather than the messages being conveyed.
This directly relates to drones and how they operate, the Compton Study being a prime example of how drones can be used. Here we see that a drone can be differentiate and can be used to collect data on a massive scale – drones do not choose individuals to target, but rather they see everything and everyone in order to observe the connections between things that the human eye would overlook.
The drone still has military connotations today and many remain wary of these devices due to the security and privacy implications that come with them. It’s not ever been officially released what spy satellites in earth orbit can see on earth and how high the quality has become but, it has been said that it’s possible observe any object the size of a loaf of bread and track its movements. It’s not wonder then that people are worried about their privacy when drones roam the skies – they’re much closer, and unhindered by pesky things like gravity and the atmosphere.
However, although there are military uses for drones, and they are important for homeland security, its their marketing potential that has some people excited. If you could gather data about a whole city – monitor a population zone for an extended period of time, you can understand what makes that city and its people tick. What they talk about, what they post on social media, how they travel, where they travel and so much more. We need to start thinking about drones and how they’re being used around us much more than we are already. We are told they’re there to keep us safe but what else?
In his chapter, Andrejevic has highlighted some of the key issues and concerns surrounding the use of drones by both military and non-military organisations. However, there are still questions that need answering. What will the role of drones be in the Internet of Things? Will we need them to monitor to billions upon billions of devices connected to the internet? Will they be able to survey connections and frequencies in order to keep things stable and moving at all times – in relation to the hopes of the developers of 5G technology? Andrejevic has gotten us started, but there’s a long way to go.