"Our machines are disturbingly lively and we ourselves frighteningly inert." The unsettling quote from Donna Haraway, Chair of the History of Consciousness program at the University of California Santa Cruz, scrolls across the screen as a network of drones patrols a city, scanning pedestrians, cars, buildings, and even people in their homes, monitoring them, tracking them, and assessing them fines and charges for breaking the law.
Most discourse on drones has centered around one of two things: the amazing footage and photographic possibilities they have opened or their safe usage and ever-evolving legal standing. Rarely do we address the sociopolitical, societal, criminal, and personal impact a future in which drones are ubiquitous will have. "Drone Aviary" isn't quite Orwellian, but it's far from comfortable. In this short film, drones have gained physical autonomy, and they use it for anything from highly personalized advertisements to assigning traffic tickets and assessing criminal behavior. As they scan individuals, they instantly evaluate their reactions: "happy, averse, neutral, negative." They keep records of their movements and actions. They read their every expression. While perhaps not our immediate future, it's something to give serious thought to: as we put more eyes in more places, how much of our freedom of expression of humanity are we willing to have monitored? Recorded? Criminalized?