Technology and Violence

As it has developed, VIPRE has begun to pay particularly close attention to the ways in which materiality, technology, and aesthetics are closely implicated in the scope and nature of political violence across the world. Our work has explored, for instance, the ways in which seemingly banal objects (chairs, radios, etc.) possess particular histories and capacities that can – in certain circumstances – directly drive the nature of political violence. More broadly, VIPRE has uncovered the ways in which expansive technological infrastructures have rapidly accelerated the circulation of cultural, material, or other objects that increase violence, or alter its nature. Within this frame, our work has consistently understood the material-technological as not simply a ‘technical’ object of concern but also a fundamentally aesthetic one, particularly by inquiring into how the effects of material-technological objects upon human praxis principally become operative through the ways in which their aesthetic design can or cannot create particular affective, emotional, or functional resonances.

Upon this basis, VIPRE is now speculating on ways in which we may be able to design against violence in material, aesthetic, and technological terms. Drawing on its core research activities to date, VIPRE is conducting a series of horizon scans of possible material-technological interventions into the conditions of possibility underlying political violence.

Based on its extensive basic research into the conditions of possibility underlying political violence, VIPRE’s core team is currently exploring the possibility of employing material and technological means to reduce instances of abuse in detention. This exploratory work has been carried out in collaboration with engineering scientists at EPFL, Lausanne, and a brief speculative VIPRE White Paper (No. 5, Austin and Leander) details some of our findings.

For further theoretical details see VIPRE Lead Researcher Jonathan Luke Austin’s recent journal article on this topic.