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In his “From a View to a Kill” Derek Gregory outlines the ways in which the advent of “drones” – unmanned aerial vehicles – has fundamentally altered not only how war is physically conducted but also, critically, how it is mediated and experienced. Rather than the “optical detachment” of the pilot from the physical space of the battlefield resulting in a sterile, emotionally removed, videogame-like experience of war, Gregory argues that this new screen-based mode of warfare breeds a paradoxical “special kind of intimacy that consistently privileges the view of the hunter-killer,” a false compression and conflation of spaces that transforms “over there” to the distance between operator and screen (Gregory, 5).

 

Thus, the troubling implications of remote warfare become not a lack of emotional investment but instead the spatial intimacy and presumed transparency of the battlefield, the “techno-culturally” mediated identification with the fellow American soldiers stranded helplessly only 18 inches away. However, as Gregory argues, this identification is a misidentification, a false conflation of “the view from above” and “the view from below” that compresses spatial and temporal distance in a way “that renders ‘our’ space familiar even in ‘their’ space – which remains obdurately Other” (Gregory, 20). Thus, for Gregory, the screen serves as a kind of imaginary window onto the real space of the battlefield, a space that becomes fundamentally techno-culturally mediated, such that “its ‘transparency’ [is] tragically illusory,” and the intimacy created is a false intimacy.

 

This concept of the screen as a mediator of intimacy has come to define not only the experience of warfare but also, in a broader sense, many facets of online interaction. As people spend more and more time behind their screens, utilizing them as interfaces for communication, a false techno-culturally mediated intimacy is bred as time and space become compressed, folded together onto the linking medium of the screen. The imaginary space of the chat room becomes the new site of interaction; the text based conversations of an instant message, initially a strange proposition, lose their awkwardness and begin to supplant personal intimacy with a new, textual and screen based “intimacy.” I know that in my youth, I spent countless hours having long, completely text-based instant message conversations with friends – it seemed at times like I knew my friends better “online” than in did in real life. The instant message box became a site of profound intimacy, a space both nowhere and “right here.”