Project Society Funded Projects

These grants were awarded in the aim to create a collaborative multidisciplinary environment on the CU Boulder campus that will be a national model for organizing and further developing expertise in the social sciences, humanities, and law. The proposals for research were allied to the understanding of the social, ethical, political, economic, and cultural implications of the rapidly growing use of drones or Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs) and associated remote sensing technology.

“Drones and New Spaces of Social Protest in Mexico”

Joe Bryan, Associate Professor, Geography

The project is a multi-sited exploratory research that is based in Mexico City and Oaxaca, Mexico. The project aims to understand how drones open up potentialities and possibilities for new spaces of protest. Drone use in Mexico has emerged and intensified in the new geopolitical landscape of Mexico’s Drug War that altered the geographies of security, violence, and state power. Through interviews, workshops, and experiments, this project examines the ways in which journalists, activists, and social organizations (SURCO) are using drones to counter these altered geographies. Joe Bryan has previously researched the military applications and implications of participatory mapping. This project will benefit from, and extend, those questions in relation to the concerns over who controls drone data, the bodily security of people using technology, and the harm that may result from the use of drones.

“Aligning Incentives: Pilot Research on Values and Innovation in UAS”

Jill Dupré, Associate Director, ATLAS

Advocates of Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) see the regulation of UAS as attempts to curb innovation and societal gains. The debates over policies of UAS regulation include two sides: one that envisions societal gains; and, the other that is critical of its intensification and possibilities of abuse. This project works to deconstruct the binary conceptualizations of the two sides and finds ways to mediate ethics and incentives in UAS research, innovation, and use. By engaging with research experts in UAS policy and practicing attorneys specializing on UAS, Jill Dupré will work towards creating collaboratives which will push forward engineering and innovation realities that are grounded in values and ethics on issues of privacy, security, and safety.

“Clytigation: State of Exception”

Michelle Ellsworth, Associate Professor, Dance

Clytigation: State of Exception is an experimental performance work that combines dance, the web, and live video processing. Building thematically on Aeschylus’ trilogy of Greek tragedies, Oresteia, Michelle Ellsworth deploys an interpersonal drone as a body double to articulate how surveillance and war acts upon the body. “The central action takes place in a perpetually transforming 7-foot high rectangular sound stage. Its interior is blue, so while the performer (i.e. the interpersonal drone) is inside it, video of him projected onto an adjoining box can—through blue-screen or chroma-key technology—be inserted into any scene: a temple in Greece, a vintage video game, recent music videos, famous works of art and choreography.” Clytigation has already been performed at On the Boards (WA) and the Chocolate Factory (NY). For ongoing and upcoming performances, Michelle incorporates contemporary events, discourses, and technologies about drones.

“Drones as Sound Collection Tools for Soundscape Artists and Acoustic Ecologists”

Hunter Ewen, Instructor, Critical Media Practices

This project utilizes drone-based audio recording and processing equipments to produce soundscapes - an array of sounds from diverse sources captured in a singular acoustic environment. Hunter Ewen’s research for the project will include: finding the ways to navigate the technical and design inhibitions present in commercially available drones for audio-recording; and, minimizing the noise from drone propeller blades and motors. In doing so, this project will create new avenues for soundscape artists, musicologists, and acoustic ecologists to record moving audio using drone technologies.

“Seeing from above, policing from below: Drones and the changing politics of knowledge and participation in conservation in Tanzania and India”

Mara Goldman, Associate Professor, Geography; Tara Grillos, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Institute of Behavioral Science

The use of drones in conservation has intensified for wildlife counting/ tracking, tracking forest fires and landscape change, and surveilling/reporting poaching. This is particularly prominent in spaces of the Global South, where on-the-ground enforcement and governance for conservation is limited and expensive. Over the past decades, Tanzania and India have led community-based natural resource management practices and knowledges. The use of drones counters conservation efforts that are grounded in the community. Rather than placing the power of knowledge and policing to the ground and to the people that live among the natural resources, drone-use - that sees from above - situates knowledge production away from the community. This project investigates how knowledge produced through drones circulate within governmental, non-governmental, and policy circles, and if local communities accept these situated knowledges. By exploring how drones are used by conservation NGOs and government agencies in Tanzania and India, this project studies how local community participation and knowledge production are re-configured through these new technological relations.

“Communication of Drone Enthusiasts”

Rebecca Rice, PhD Student, Communication; Emma Collins, Master’s Student, Communication

This project studies the embodied experiences and discourses - of militarization, securitization, masculinity, and neoliberalism - that guide how drone enthusiasts perform group norms, socializations, and flying. Rice and Collins will be participant observers and will interview members of a 200-person drone enthusiasts club in Fort Collins, CO. By employing critical communication perspectives, the researchers will study the relationship of the public - as private use of UAVs have increased - with drones, and how these relations create new social worlds.

"Georhythmic Drift Music"

Ryan Ruehlen, PhD Student, Communication

Georhythmic Drift Music is an on-going PhD dissertation in Intermedia Art, Writing & Performance at the University of Colorado-Boulder. The project focuses on deep listening research and involves field experiments investigating VLF [very low frequency] radio emissions, unmanned aerial vehicles, and impromptu sound art performances transmitted to remote listening stations. Utilizing aerial technology as both a courier system and an “acoustic prosthetic” goes against the grain of current art practices and privileges the use of drones to capture the auditory potential of the atmosphere with the aid of extended antennas.