Flattened vision
Nineteenth-century hot air balloons as early drones
in Drone imaginaries
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Digital drone surveillance practices can erase notions of a three-dimensional space continuum and destabilise territorial boundaries. This chapter, however, aims to show that this process of spatial flattening is not exclusively a feature of digital, but also of analogue forms of surveillance. Its focus is aerial surveillance from hot air balloons, which was initiated by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783. Analysing nineteenth-century poetic literature about ballooning (Jean Paul), this chapter aims to show that the balloon view triggered new forms of spatial perception (loss of central perspective, the diffusion of spatial boundaries, blind spots). As the literary works show, this flatting of the horizon was closely entwined with a critique of social hierarchies and seen as a symbol for social mobility; issues also at stake in current deliberations about fluid surveillance and space. This chapter critically discusses the similarities of hot air balloon reconnaissance with contemporary drone surveillance technologies and initiates a debate about whether forms of pervasive surveillance and their reconfigurations of communities are an exclusive effect of the digital.

Drone imaginaries

The power of remote vision

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