Drone Pilots, Humanitarians and the Videogame Analogy: Unpacking the Conversation

Conference paper

Sandvik, Kristin Bergtora (2013) Drone Pilots, Humanitarians and the Videogame Analogy: Unpacking the Conversation, 5-7 February.

The public conversation about “unmanned warfare” and about the role of drone pilots is relatively new, and as such characterized by hype, misinformation and exaggerations. The commonly made analogy made between war and gaming, and the ambiguity surrounding drone pilots status as pilot and/or gamer, are the starting points for this paper. The aim is to improve the humanitarian contribution to the conversation by pursuing a twofold objective: first, to understand more about who the drone pilots are and what they do. Second, to unpack the notion of ISR and targeting as forms of gaming. On the basis of media reports, scholarly literature, and reports and surveys published by the U.S military, this paper sets out to do three things: first, to offer a brief biography of the drone pilot; second, to explore the theoretical underpinnings of the videogame analogy; and third, to contemplate the humanitarian’s use of this analogy, discussing the use of the “Bugsplat” metaphor and identifying a need to focus on emerging technology.

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