Skip to main content

Drones: Politics, Pedagogy, Power, Play (short-term project, Sept. 28-29, 2018)

Published September 29, 2018

Organized by Jon Caris, Spatial Analysis Lab; Greg White, Government

September 28-29, 2018

Project Description

What comes to mind when you hear or read the word “drones”? The media conjures images of drones as tools either of surveillance or warfare. At Smith our implementation of drone technology steers well clear of both these categories. Nevertheless, what are the affordances and limitations of using such disruptive technology, particularly at a liberal arts college? Join us this fall for a short-term Kahn project, Drones: Power, Play, Policy and Pedagogy, to learn and discuss the critical, pedagogical, and ethical stakes for human-drone interaction.

Broadly speaking, our intent is to engage and inform our community on drone technology, with a focus on drone use in the Academy. In turn, we hope to be informed by advocates and critics alike as we build our capacity to teach with drones and to use them in the arts and sciences. Smith’s history includes a bit of “drone” activism, challenging the FAA over airspace access and ownership. Who owns that slice of airspace above the treetops or above your tulips? Who owns the right of transit less than 400 feet above the ground? Children flying kites? Amazon delivering a subscription of granola bars?

In this short-term Kahn, we seek to understand drones in a broader context with scholars who can prime our discussion through a comparative analysis of emerging technologies. As we frame a consideration of drones within a larger context, we also plan to directly engage the technology by flying drones at the MacLeish Field Station. Participants will experience drone surveillance, push a button to launch an autonomous mapping mission, or compose the perfect dronie (moving images captured entirely via drone).

Our program will begin on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 28, with a guest speaker and discussion, and dinner at the Kahn. We will reconvene at MacLeish field station on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 29, to fly and experience drones directly, and conclude with discussion about the prospects for continuing our attention to drones in the Academy.