Too close to kill, too far to talk: Interpretation and narrative in drone fighting and surveillance in public places
Like other teletechnological practices, drone fighting as remote fighting gives rise to a paradox with regard to the relation between ethics and distance: on the one hand, it bridges physical distance in the sense that it enables spying on people and killing people in other parts of the world. On the other hand, it seems to increase moral distance: if you are far away from your target, it becomes easier to kill. However, based on interviews with drone crew as published in the media, I show that the current surveillance technologies used in drone fighting might mitigate this effect since they allow the viewer to build up a kind of intimacy with (potential) targets. Then I argue that this moral proximity is only possible if we assume !hat interpretation and the construction of narrative play a key role in the·epistemology of surveillance. I compare military surveillance to surveillance in public spaces to elaborate this point and explore the relation between automated surveillance, distance, and interpretation. I also argue that given the lack of shared sociality and communication, moral distance in surveillance and drone fighting can only partly be bridged by technology-mediated interpretation and narration. I conclude that we need more reflection on how technologies could create the conditions under which moral metamorphosis and interpretative freedom is not only possible but also probable.
Citation : Coeckelbergh, M. (2013) Too close to kill, too far to talk: Interpretation and narrative in drone fighting and surveillance in public places. In: R. Leenes and E. Kosta, eds., Bridging distances in technology and regulation, 1st ed. Oisterwijk: Wolf Legal Publishers, pp. 125-133
ISBN : 9789058509864
Research Group : Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility
Research Institute : Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR)