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Lisa Parks: “Drone Matters: Vertical Mediation in the Horn of Africa”
Thursday, February 11, 2016 @ 5:00 pm EST
Since 2002, the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and CIA have orchestrated a covert drone war from Camp Lemonier in the African country of Djibouti, monitoring and striking alleged al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab suspects in Yemen and Somalia. As a media scholar, UC Santa Barbara’s Lisa Parks is interested both in the discourses that have been used to expose covert US drone interventions and in the ways that drone operations themselves function as technologies of mediation. Drawing upon media such as training manual diagrams, infrared images, Google Earth interfaces, and drone crash scene photos, this talk explores the drone’s mediating work through three registers: the infrastructural, the perceptual, and the forensic. Focusing on maneuvers between the ground and sky, Parks suggest that military drone operations are irreducible to the screen’s display and should be understood as practices of vertical mediation–as practices of communication and materialization that occur dynamically through the vertical field, and, as such, have particular kinds of affects. The talk based on a chapter of her forthcoming book, Coverage: Vertical Mediation and the War on Terror.
Lisa Parks is Professor in the Film and Media Studies Department at UC Santa Barbara. She is the author of Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual (Duke UP, 2005) and Coverage: Vertical Mediation and the War on Terror (Routledge, forthcoming), and is co-editor of Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures (U of Illinois, 2015), Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries and Cultures (Rutgers UP, 2012), Undead TV (Duke UP, 2007), Planet TV: A Global Television Reader (NYU, 2003), and another in progress entitled Life in the Age of Drones (under contract, Duke UP). Parks has held visiting appointments at the Institute for Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg) in Berlin, McGill University, University of Southern California, and the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently a principal investigator on research grants from the National Science Foundation and the US State Department.