Dis/connected Warfare seminar – University of Copenhagen

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Dis/connected Warfare seminar



13:00-  Welcome

13:15-  Yasco Horsman: Drone Bomb Me. Cinema, Law, Politics

14:15-  Daniela Agostinho: In and Out of Sight: Visualizing War through Data

15:00-15:30-  Break

15:30-  Ekaterina Kalinina: Theory of Reflexive Control and Disconnected Warfare 

Moderator: Pepita Hesselberth (Leiden University/ University of Copenhagen).

*For more information , please contact Pepita Hesselberth pepita@hum.ku.dk.

This seminar is part of her project on Disconnectivity in the Digital Age and affiliated to Digital Cultures and the Uncertain Archives project. The event is made possible with support of the Danish Council for Independent Research | Humanities; Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation.


About the Talks:

Drone Bomb Me. Cinema, Law, Politics

Yasco Horsman, Department of Film and Literary Studies, Centre for the Arts in Society, Leiden University

The growing importance of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) in warfare, surveillance operations, and policing has provoked a series of questions that exceed the ethical and political ones. As Gregoire Chamayou puts it in his book Drone Theory (2015), the drone should be understood as a ‘philosophic object’ that challenges the major conceptual categories we use to understand the world. Chamayou writes:  “As soon as one starts to think about it… intense confusion arises around notions as elementary as zones or places… virtues or bravery… warfare or conflict.” (14) Steered by assemblages of technologies, human actors, algorithms and protocols, the drone has reached such a level of complexity that every attempt at creating a ‘cognitive map’ of its functioning seems to falter. In light of this ‘crisis in intelligibility,’ in this talk I ask: how does popular culture respond? What stories, images, and metaphors does it introduce to make this crisis palpable? I will discuss three popular texts in particular, two films (The Good Kill (Niccol, 2014) and Eye in the Sky (Hood, 2015) and a song (‘Drone Bomb Me’ by Anohni (2016)) in order to analyse how they circumnavigate the perplexity that is caused by the drone.

In and Out of Sight: Visualizing War through Data

Daniela Agostinho, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen.

Recent scholarship has examined how dronification has transformed the geopolitical, legal and ethical nature of warfare, and produced new blind spots in the always foggy visual economy of warfare. In this talk, I will argue that the genre of data visualization is emerging as a site to reimagine the experience of remote warfare obfuscated by the drone. Focusing on different data visualization examples from the Iraq war onwards, I will address how these images are crafted, shown and interpreted; how they relate to the wider history of war images; how they articulate material and geopolitical changes or continuities in remote warfare; and what kinds of practices of seeing and experiencing war they elicit. In doing so, I wish to focus on, and problematize, two strategies of warfare data visualization in particular, i.e. first, the attempt to recreate the battlefield when war no longer operates solely on ground level; and, second, the effort to convey and restitute the vulnerability of the targeted bodies. Situating these images within the cultural history of war representation, and drawing on recent insights from visual culture, cultural geography, and critical war studies, I stake a claim for the critical interrogation of data visualization in remote warfare and the need for scholarly attention to its phenomenological and political implications. 


Theory of Reflexive Control and Disconnected Warfare 

Ekaterina Kalinina, Department of Media and Communication, Södertörn University; research fellow Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen

Understanding the difficulty of matching the pace of technological military development of the West and the United States in particular, the Soviets actively sought alternatives to the use of hard power. Starting from the 1930s Soviet scientists developed new models directed at military decision making processes. The most well-known one is Vladimir Lefebre’s theory of reflexive control. Lefebre’s modelling system is comprised of three subsystems: a model to simulate one’s own decisions, a model to simulate the adversary’s systems, and a model to actually make decisions. Developing his theory from the 1960s onwards, Lefebvre concluded that his model could be used to influence an adversary into making decisions that were favorable to the Soviet Union. He argued that resolving a conflict, in essence, does not require a physical interaction between two or more military forces, but rather could be resolved in the decision-making processes of the opponents, where the opponents based their decisions on a reflective interaction between the sides in conflict. While this theory was developed in Russia a long time ago, it would seem that it is still undergoing further refinement, the traces of which can arguably be detected in recent military operation in Ukraine and Syria. Against this background, this presentation aims at providing a comprehensive overview of the theory of reflexive control, as well as its divergence from the U.S. theory of perception management used in disconnected warfare. 

 About the speakers:

Yasco Horsman is University Lecturer at Leiden University. He is the author of Theaters of Justice. Judging Staging and Working Through in Arendt, Brecht and Delbo (Stanford University Press, 2010); and the co-editor of a special issue of Law and Literature on “Legal Bodies: Corpus, Persona, Communitas” (2016). He has published essays on literature (Kafka, Beckett, Coetzee), cinema (Resnais), Graphic Novels (Spiegelman, Ware, Clowes), animation and flipbooks (Mickey, Sparkey). He is currently working on a book on Radio and Modernism and collecting notes for a genealogy of the “funny animal” figure in early animation and comic strips.

 Daniela Agostinho is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen within the Uncertain Archives research project (www.uncertainarchives.dk). She is the editor of the volume Panic and Mourning: The Cultural Work of Trauma (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2012). Her research interests include cultural theory, visual culture, film and moving image studies, and feminist theory. She is currently working on archival temporalities, the conditions of seeing and being seen under big data regimes, and on data visualizations of contemporary warfare.

Ekaterina Kalinina is a postdoctoral researcher at Department of Art and Cultural Studies at Copenhagen University, Denmark. She completed her Ph.D.in Media and Communication Studies with the project ‘Mediated post-Soviet nostalgia’ at Södertörn University, Sweden. She worked as a research fellow at Swedish National Defence University researching on the questions of Russian patriotism, biopolitics, nostalgia and national identity. Ekaterina Kalinina is also actively engaged in practice based research and works as a project manager at the Swedish organization Nordkonst, where she manages cultural projects and conducts research on cross-cultural artistic practices and intercultural communication. She is currently finishing her project on Hip Hop culture in Russia. She is also a founding member of the International Media and Nostalgia Network. Her current project ‘Uncertainty of Digital Archives: Exploring nostalgia and civic engagement’ investigates the role of affective mnemonic experiences, such as nostalgia, in triggering social mobilisation in digital and physical environments.