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Assemblage of the Vertical: Commercial Drones and Algorithmic Life

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Abstract: This paper takes up the increasingly popular topic of drones — including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), small unmanned aerial Systems (sUAS), Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and a vast panoply of commercial drones and copters — to argue that our analysis should lie not so much on drones as objects, but as assemblages of the vertical. Drones, I argue, constitute a socio-technical assemblage of the sky and vertical space, which means that our focus should be not (only) on their technological development and capacities (although this is certainly important) but on their wider effects and affects. The latter of these include increasing algorithmic data collection and circulation. In the second part of the paper, I examine what I call "algorithmic governance " inspired by the recent governing algorithms conference at NYU but also drawing from Foucault s work on governmentality. Algorithmic governance constitutes "conduct of conduct " to modulate how "data shadows " or Deleuzian "dividuals " can be created, sold, and passed forward. My particular concern is how this takes place in a geographic register.

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