Polyscaler autonomous remote sensing systems are presently constituting new regimes of teleactivity for real-time surveillance and data gathering. This essay continues several ongoing projects that examine the philosophical, technological, and political ramifications of these systems as they pertain to the constitution of the subject, community, and the imaginaries operative within and through them. Working with the concepts of autos, munus, and nomos to read these systems, exemplified here by two different kinds of remote sensing systems—IT/weapons systems for the new US destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, and the nonprofit Planetary Skin Institute—this essay explores the geopolitical and philosophical stakes of these systems and their intended and unintended consequences. The essay argues that autonomous remote sensing systems configure a specific kind of self/autos within a munus constituted by a nomos. The autos, munus, and nomos have been remade in and through these telesensing systems that simultaneously repeat, reify, and modify the politics of the self that remains a default mode for thinking geopolitics in the West in its global reach. This remaking works in ways that counterintuitively and counterintentionally might result in the opening to alternatives to this specific yet pervasive kind of politics of the self.
Felo de se: The Munus of Remote Sensing
Ryan Bishop is professor of global art and politics at the Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton. He writes about critical theory, aesthetics, military technology, urbanism, and visual culture. He is coeditor of Cultural Politics (with John Armitage and Doug Keller), the Theory Now book series, and the Technicities book series (with John Armitage and Joanne Roberts).