What is a drone? Is it a drudge? An idler? A monotonous hum? A meditative chant? Is it a killer robot? A toy? The automated arm of US imperialism? A technology perhaps capable of developing agency of its own? A flying camera? A police spy? An agent of apocalypse? A promise of the future?
It’s a word that has many meanings. In music, a drone is the lasting note on which a piece is built. In the past five years, the meanings built atop the word have expanded like the borderless war that provides it with its most infamous use. Understanding and exploring the idea of the drone has never been more important.
It is the purpose of Murmuration to facilitate these explorations and understandings. Our goal is to create a strange harmony, in a virtual drone. The word itself becomes the continuous vibration over which we invite all of you to play.
There is a growing wealth of legal, journalistic, and technical writing being done on drones. In addition to drawing upon these invaluable resources, we are interested in inspiring creative responses. Why?
A drone is a literary character. It is an imagined future that we are in the process of making present. Our understanding of the drones flying over Pakistan are informed as much by the science fiction of the past as they are by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Drones allow people sitting in one continent the power to stalk and kill people in another. To confront the implications of that power, we must imagine ourselves on both ends of the camera and on both ends of the trigger. Art and fiction free us to imagine the world through other people’s eyes.
The use and meaning of the drone is still contested. The U.S. executive branch has used this technology to fight a war in which the victims are all on one side, to strike down seven centuries of legal tradition stretching back to habeas corpus. But that is not the only way these remote-controlled devices can be used. They can make music and take aerial photos. Drones have the potential to alter the balance of power. As DIY drones enter the hands of civilians, we can turn them around on our police forces and employers. We can hack the military definition of the drone and rewrite it as something that could be liberating rather than oppressive. Drones can also be creatures of play and joy. As drones themselves prove, the future is imagined before it is invented.
Murmuration: A Festival of Drone Culture
We invite you to imagine with us: what is the future of the drone?
Over the course of June 2013, in conjunction with The State, Murmuration will commission and post no less that 30 works of art and fiction involving the concept of drones, to establish a virtual festival to extend the ongoing conversations on the topic of drones through fictional and creative forms.
This festival will be published in three forms (see below), and we are seeking to raise money to pay the contributors and for the publishing itself.
The purpose of the festival is to compile and publish works of drone culture in many mediums, so that they can be shared, discussed, and continue to inspire more creation and further discussion. We will be publishing the work three times, in these three different forms:
The interest in drones is viral, spreading over networks, in social groups both digital and physical. As a cultural response, drone culture is something that swarms, spreads, flocks, and surrounds us. As drones are debated in legal and bureaucratic stages internationally and locally, there is also a vernacular discussion. The "social media event" is key to drone culture, and so we will be utilizing it to share the collected material. The virtual festival will be based on the Tumblr blogging format, a means compatible with linking, re-sharing, memes, and repetition. Additionally, these posts will be spread to other social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook. The "true reach" of drone culture in this form will extend as far as social media can propel it, as "force multiplier" of networked society.
While social media can spread content far, it is also time-based, disposable, and susceptible to decay. The topic of drone culture is timely, but it also needs to have some permanency. To this end, we'll also be archiving all the posts into a digital document, that can be saved offline, stored, re-loaded, and re-shared as a complete set. We want to utilize the power of drone culture in its immediate newness, but we also want to start building a history. This digital document will be available for download long after the social media posts have faded to the bottom of timelines.
The infinite share-ability of digital media is certainly an attribute of the former two publication methods. But there is strength in physical publication as well. Drones are material things, with very real effects on the material world. The response of drone culture needs to have a similarly material effect. By creating a printed record, drone culture will be able to be handled, passed to others, abandoned, and found.
The document will be printed in tabloid format, on newsprint. In these wide pages, drone culture will mimic the news stories that inspire it. Instead of being buried in the back pages, it will inhabit the entire publication. It will not be obscured by truncated headlines or the pursuit of selling ads. It will be the entire publication--as if for one passage of the news cycle, the only subject in the world was drone culture.
We are asking backers to help us raise $2000. $1500 is for the express purpose of paying our contributors ($50 per person), and $500 to cover the cost of printing the physical document and the rewards for our backers.
It is very important to us to support the artists working on the topic of drone culture, and this is the primary purpose of the campaign. Additionally, while the social media and digital document can be produced nearly for free, the physical document needs funding to be printed. We feel that supporting the artists and creating a physical record of their work, to be shared and distributed, is a worthy goal. So we ask you to help us by supporting our project, to share in creation of this art, and to receive that publication and some other artistic rewards in return.
Any money we raise over the initial $2000 goal will be split evenly between contributors, in addition to their $50 commission.
Murmuration will happen the month of June, 2013. The festival will be occurring whether or not the Kickstarter campaign is successful, and contributors will be paid regardless. We, like most of our contributors, are freelancers who produce only the work that we can afford, surviving on the occasional funding that trickles in. We have pledged to pay them at least $50 each out of our own pocket if the campaign fails, because it is very important to us that the time and creativity put into the work of our contributors are rewarded. But we ask you to help us to raise this money, to help us make this festival happen, and share this work with the world and continue the conversation about drones in culture.
If you have any questions, please get in touch either through Kickstarter or at our email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. And stay tuned for the festival! You can follow us on Twitter at @dronemurmur, and on the official site (and venue for the festival) on Tumblr: murmurationfestival.tumblr.com.
Olivia Rosane @orosane
Adam Rothstein @interdome
Risks and challenges
The risks are none. Murmuration will be taking place, the only question is whether the organizers have to spend their own money, or if the community is willing to fund this endeavor to organize and collect original works that intersect with the concept of "drones". We feel that this is an important project, and we think that others will too.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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