Too close to kill, too far to talk

Subtitle:Interpretation and narrative in drone fighting and surveillance in public places
Authors/others:Coeckelbergh, Mark
Abstract: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.
Number of pages:9
Date of publication:2013
Publication Type:Chapter
Host publication's title:Bridging distances in technology and regulation
Host publication's editors:Leenes, RonaldKosta, Eleni