Autonomous Remote Sensing Systems: Sensing Sovereignty and Subjects

Polyscaler autonomous remote sensing systems, as well as tele-technological weapons systems, presently constitute new regimes of tele-activity for real-time surveillance and data gathering. In their automated operations, these systems do more than simply generate information. They help constitute a markedly pervasive distribution of sensing, data generation, data gathering and communication into the weave of the world while simultaneously reconfiguring human engagements with it. The numerous large-scale interrelated remote sensing systems operative in the present have long genealogies in military research and development and remain influential in military, civic and corporate spheres. The political and philosophical effects of these radically distributed sensing systems on the constitution of the self and the subject’s imaginary of its relation to others, especially in the form of the political subject in relation to sovereignty, open a shift in the terrain of geopolitical thought and the emergence of potentially new geopolitical concepts, frames and architectures. The work I have been conducting around these systems has been formed in conversation with Benjamin Bratton, who has decided to approach the situation as a design problem, while I have approached it as a critical theory/political philosophy issue.  In this talk, I will consider specific systems and some of their material components as well as strategies for writing and thinking about them.

Ryan Bishop is Professor of Global Art and Politics at the Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton UK, where he is co-director with Jussi Parikka of the research group “Archaeologies of Media and Technology.” He co-edits the journal Cultural Politics (Duke UP) and edits the book series “Technicities” (Edinburgh UP), “A Cultural Politics Book” (Duke UP) and “Theory Now” (Polity). Recent books include Cold War Legacies: Systems, Theory, Aesthetics (with John Beck, Edinburgh UP, 2016), Across and Beyond: A transmediale Reader on Post-digital Practices, Concepts and Institutions (with Kristoffer Gansing, Jussi Parikka and Elvia Wilk, Sternberg Press, 2016) and Barthes/Burgin (with Sunil Manghani, Edinburgh University Press, 2016).