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Journal Article

The Drones of Others: An Insight into the Imagination of UAVs in Germany

Selchow, Sabine (2015). 'The Drones of Others: An Insight into the Imagination of UAVs in Germany.' Behemoth – A Journal on Civilisation, 8(2): 55-72. Read online

Abstract: Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have come to be a central military technology in the current era and have also recently entered the civil sector. Like any technology, UAVs are not just a technical object with distinct technical qualities but also the product of social negotiations and imaginations in public discourses. This article takes the word drone as a distinct component of these negotiations and imaginations of UAVs. With an interest in the German imagination of UAVs, the article presents an analysis of what is captured in the word Drohne (drone) in a corpus generated from an established German news platform. This analysis provides insight into the meanings attached to the word Drohne, such as ‘military power’, ‘hyper-progress’ and ‘threat to extant technology’. Importantly, it uncovers the distinction between two kinds of ‘Drohnen’: actors and tool, and unveils a geography of ‘Drohne’, in and through which ‘Drohnen’ are ‘managed’. With that the analysis reveals an intriguing subtle theme in the social negotiation of UAVs in Germany. In this theme the technology ‘Drohne’ (drone) is imagined as potentially ‘game changing’ in nature. At the same time, it is symbolically ‘tamed’ and organised through a (modern) understanding of bordered social ‘containers’, in which ‘Drohnen’ are imagined to exist and are subject to ‘compartmentalised’ responsibilities.

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