Instagramming The Drone War

Nov 19 2012 @ 8:30am

Screen shot 2012-11-14 at 1.34.42 PM

Joshua Kopstein explains a new project by James Bridle:

Bridle's Instagram feed finds and filters images of drone strike locations using satellite data from Google Maps, adding contextual information from a variety of news sources, including the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The number of casualties from such strikes has quadrupled under the Obama administration, but Bridle says the true power of drones is their role as a "distancing technology" which further abstracts a disengaged populace from acts of state-funded aggression. …

To Bridle, Instagram is just one of various technologies we can use to map the course of history. "These technologies are not just for 'organising' information, they are also for revealing it, for telling us something new about the world around us, rendering it more clearly," he writes. "We should engage with them at every level. These are just images of foreign landscapes, still; yet we have got better at immediacy and intimacy online: perhaps we can be better at empathy too."

Simon Willis theorizes why the project, with more than 1,700 followers after six tweets, strikes a nerve:

We are told that attacks took place, but we can't see the evidence. The pictures on Dronestagram are informative partly because they remind us of what we don't know. We are looking at warzones, but we are viewers twice-removed.

Rebecca Rosen zooms out:

So far this year the American military has launched more than 330 drone strikes in Afghanistan alone — an average greater than one per day. In Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia the numbers are smaller — 80 altogether — but the lesser frequency doesn't make the strikes any more comprehensible. From this side of the war, America's drone strikes feel very remote, their consequences quite abstract, their targets unmoored to actual physical locations. But with our powerful maps and comprehensive satellite images of the world over, visuals of each of those places lives online, a few clicks away, if we would bother to look.