Drones: Mapping the Drone-scape

(This is the introduction to a series.) 

I’ve got 2 1/2 years worth of notes on the topic of “drones” and yet, have posted nothing, even as the pace and events that should spark commentary proceeds exponentially. In 2011, this might’ve made for more eye-opening content (for the layman); now, it’s just channeling firehose-output so (hopefully) more substance can emerge. But this isn’t just excuse-making; it’s an opportunity to observe the rapid (and progressively escalating, like a Moore’s Law for drones. Unfortunately, you can’t see these notes so you’ll just have to take my word for it and consider the escalation from your own perspective.

U.S. Air Force photo/Lt Col Leslie Pratt

U.S. Air Force photo/Lt Col Leslie Pratt


Mapping the Drone-scape
Here I’ll introduce a taxonomy of drone-relevant categories for categorization of future posts, topics, or links. Given that I limit posts to ~1000 words, I trust it’ll get some mileage. Taxonomy isn’t actually just an academic exercise—categories and content co-evolve. So we get more of a “folksonomy” these are more tags than exclusive categories (or, as the New York Times puts it, “idiosyncratic rather than systematic”). But thats’s a topic unto itself, and may have to wait another two years.

As said above, the items below are just facets, rather than discrete categories (there is often—or normally—overlap); by no means are they exhaustive. I’ll use these:

  • Philosophical; i.e., potential future issues; ethics; what is “force” in “the use of force”?
  • Legal; i.e., domestic and international law, justifications within those frameworks, adaptation of existing legal frameworks or creation of new ones, etc.
  • Political; i.e., aspects such as who is targeting who, where, and why–substantially overlapping with the legal aspects
  • Theoretical; i.e., “what if?” issues such as, “what if ‘they’ get this technology?”, or what if/how it is deployed by X actor, including within the US itself by “the government”, private citizens, or non-US actors
  • Practical (or technological); i.e., how are drones being used today? What qualifies as a “drone”? What are the various technical advancements and what are their implications?
  • Geographic (or geopolitical); i.e., where? How does the deployment of drones change the power dynamic between state actors? How about non-state actors – or even citizens?
  • Cultural; i.e., how are drones depicted in mass media (fictional or otherwise), or how does it inspire aspects of others ? What does the cultural legacy of drones look like?

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