Aerial Experiments: Before and After the Drone

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8223, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Anna Feigenbaum, Jason Pearl
Chairs: Anna Feigenbaum


Since antiquity, the sky has been a space of imaginative and technological experimentation. Using kites and pigeons, balloons and parachutes, experimenters have tested the atmosphere for a wide variety of uses.

Today, however, aerial experimentation has become synonymous with drone warfare and satellite surveillance. Offering much to the field, this scholarship has outlined the geopolitics and material effects of militarised skies and aerial power, tracing links between the origins of the cartographic gaze and the deadly use of GIS today. At the same time, this focus on drones can have the effect of flattening the uneven history of actual experiments in the air.

Aerial experiments that do not align with drone logics of power and control are often overshadowed and rendered less visible, limiting our understanding of both the multifaceted history of aerial experimentation, and specific modern practices of aerial experimentation.

This interdisciplinary panel session asks: How do we understand aerial experimentation before and after the drone? What new insights can we garner from adding other cases and histories? What do present studies of the drone reveal, as well as limit in our understanding of the skies? How might we put artistic and activistic uses of the sky in dialogue with military and bureaucratic uses?


Type Details Minutes
Introduction Jason Pearl Florida International University 5
Panelist Caren Kaplan University of California - Davis 10
Panelist Hugh Gusterson GWU 10
Panelist Jennifer Schnepf Princeton University 10
Discussant Peter Adey Royal Holloway, University of London 10
Discussant Derek McCormack University of Oxford 10
Discussant Sasha Engelmann University of Oxford 10

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