Seminar: Sensing War at the Interface

Sensing War at the Interface: Immersive Training Simulations and the Sense-able  
Lucy Suchman in the Citizen Sense „Sensing Practices“ seminar series
25 February 2015, 16:00 – 18:00
137 Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths, University of London  

This paper begins with the motivating questions and initial analytic framing of my research in progress on the problem of ‘situational awareness’ within contemporary forms of (particularly U.S.) warfare. A more-than-human entanglement with mortal consequence for those whom it incorporates, my focus is on the interfaces that configure war fighters to achieve ‘recognition’ of relevant subjects and objects, including the discriminations of us and them that are prerequisites for defensible killing. I’m interested more specifically in the complex relations of mediation and embodiment, distance and proximity, vulnerability and impunity that comprise contemporary configurations of warfare, as the virtual is infused with real figurations and has its own material effects, and the real environments of war fighting are increasingly virtual. The empirical basis for the project at the moment is the archive of Flatworld, an immersive training environment developed between 2001 and 2008 as the flagship project of the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. I read the project through a frame inspired by Judith Butler’s theoretical analysis of figuration’s generative agencies, to try to articulate further the simulation’s discursive and material effects.  

Bio Lucy Suchman is Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University. Her research interests within the field of feminist science and technology studies are focused on technological imaginaries and material practices of technology design, particularly developments at the interface of bodies and machines. Her current research extends my longstanding critical engagement with the field of human-computer interaction to contemporary warfighting, including the figurations that inform immersive simulations, and problems of „situational awareness“ in remotely-controlled weapon systems. She is concerned with the question of whose bodies are incorporated into these systems, how and with what consequences for social justice and the possibility for a less violent world.    

Sensing Practices
The Citizen Sense research group is hosting a year-long seminar series on “Sensing Practices.” The series attends to questions about how sensing and practice emerge, take hold, and form attachments across environmental, material, political and aesthetic concerns. Rather than take “the senses” as a fixed starting point, this seminar series instead considers how sensing-as-practice is differently articulated in relation to technologies of environmental monitoring, data gathered for evidentiary claims, the formation of citizens, and more-than-human entanglements. How might these expanded approaches to sensing practices recast engagements with experience, and reconfigure explorations of practice-based research?

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