“We kill...metadata”: Drones and the Processing Regime.
- This research project draws on a variety of data to argue that contemporary US drone warfare can be understood as a processing regime. Using a variety of technologies with the drone at the center, the US military approaches potential targets as information to be processed both literally and figuratively, suspending their autonomy (partially) as well as the categories of civilian and insurgent them... read moreselves. These “data-beings” experience a form of ontological violence deeply tied to physical and psychological violence as they themselves are computed, ostensibly in order to determine their intentions and danger and therefore whether they should live or die. This processing has ethical and political implications similar to those presented by automated weapons systems in general, such as the new problem of pre-determining acceptable civilian casualty levels or risk. Methodologically this piece uses assemblage theory to uncover this regime- this is a theoretical lens that aims to analyze networks of humans and non-humans (like drones) as part of an entangled assemblage wherein both have some degree of independent influence. This destabilizes images of the drone as a static object, and instead thinks of it as a configuration of technologies shaped by social context for specific purposes. This ties in again to the central thesis that drone warfare must be understood in a broader social context, specifically here a regime of processing. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the grant requirement of the Tufts Summer Scholars Program.read less