Thursday: Lisa Parks

Tactical Drone Use and Vertical Mediation at Standing Rock

Lisa Parks (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

From April 2016 to February 2017 protestors gathered at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota (and beyond) to protest the construction of a 1,172 mile-long Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL) by Energy Transfer Partners. As the protests went on for months they attracted thousands of Native Americans and non-Native allies and made global news headlines as the activists, who called themselves “water protectors,” engaged in a series of standoffs with federal and local law enforcers and private security teams. A distinguishing aspect of the protests was the creation of a tactical model of civilian drone use by Native American activists, Dean Dedman, Jr. (Sioux) and Myron Dewey (Newe-Numah/Paiute- Shoshone). Drawing upon discussions with Dewey and Dedman, anti-DAPL drone media, state documents released in FOIA requests and leaks, I conceptualize and analyze vertical mediation at Standing Rock, focusing on the drone media aesthetics and tactical positionalities of Dedman and Dewey as well as the surveillance practices of law enforcers. The analysis is intended to draw further critical awareness to the relations between vertical power, drone technologies, and publics, and to highlight the surveillance strategies and discourses of US state and federal officers in their efforts to criminalize civilian drone use by activists. The paper suggests that the anti-DAPL protests expose state forms of vertical power that are immanent with the globalization of the civilian drone economy, and concludes with a brief discussion of the importance of tribal sovereignty claims over the air space above their lands.

Lisa Parks is Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Director of the Global Technologies and Cultures Lab at MIT. Her research is focused in three areas: media, militarization and surveillance; critical studies of media infrastructures; and satellite technologies and media cultures. She is the author or co-editor of Rethinking Media Coverage: Vertical Mediation and the War on Terror (Routledge, 2018), Life in the Age of Drone Warfare (Duke UP, 2017), Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures (U of Illinois, 2015), Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual (Duke UP, 2005), Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries, and Cultures (Rutgers UP, 2012), and Planet TV: A Global Television Reader (NYU Press, 2003). Parks has held visiting appointments at the Wissenschafskolleg (Institute for Advanced Study) in Berlin, University of Southern California, McGill University, and the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining the MIT faculty, she was Professor of Film and Media Studies at UC Santa Barbara (1998-2016), where she also served as Department Chair and the Director of the Center for Information Technology and Society. She is currently a Senior Fellow at the IKKM at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany, and is working on a new monograph about media infrastructures.

Thursday 28, 18.15-19.45

UvA OMHP, Room D1.08
(Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, 1012 CN Amsterdam)