Siew Ying Shee: “New technologies of the volumetric city: The politics, practices, and possibilities of urban drone use in Singapore”

In Students by General Account

My research investigates the opportunities and implications of drone use in highly dense urban environments.  Originally designed for military application, drone technologies have increasingly been mobilised over the last decade in various domains of urban governance and commercial activities (e.g., managing urban densities via crowd control, delivery services). Despite the growing drone use in cities, critical assessments of their impacts on urban space and living remain seriously lacking. Building upon recent literature around volumetric and vertical urbanism, drone studies, and the politics of robotics and autonomous technology, this research uses the empirical case of Singapore — one of the world’s first cities to integrate drone technology in urban governance — to understand how drone technologies are produced for urban use, assess how they are used in urban governance, and evaluate the social, ethical, and political impacts of these developments on urban space, living, and imagination. Using an innovative methodology combining interviews and an immersive ethnography of drone practices, this research will generate rich empirical resources for theorizing the volumetric shifts in urban politics in this drone age that challenges and extends the surface-focused tradition in critical urban thinking. By yielding early, grounded perspectives into the politics of emerging urban drone robotic developments, the research aims to locate sites for interventions to develop more ethical and responsible urban governance practices in the post-pandemic world.