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Lecture | Research Seminar

“Not A Bot”: Rehearsing Automated Futures in Aviation

Monday 27 September 2021
Pieter de la Court

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, airports such as Schiphol were nearing full capacity. During that time, the global aviation industry was focused on solving the pressures of congestion and growth by making use of new technologies to ‘stretch’ airspace, expand airports, and slot in more take-off and landing times in order to accommodate more aircraft in the sky. The industry has now found itself facing an unprecedented economic downfall, while the climate crisis remains dire. What is air travel going to look like over the next decade? By exploring some ethnographic examples of new technologies that aim to ‘optimise’ post-Covid flight in sustainable ways – such as new ways of piloting and managing air traffic that are designed to cut down on emissions – I discuss how shifts in future aviation planning work to both exacerbate and smooth over tensions between new technologies, cost-cutting, labour, and sustainability targets. As aviation personnel grapple with these dilemmas, I argue that they are also transforming what ‘the future’ is in novel ways. This talk is based on a narrative non-fiction book-in-progress, and is intended to encourage wider discussions on the anthropology of infrastructure, time, climate, technology, and global capital.

About Tina Harris

Tina Harris received her Ph.D. in Anthropology in 2009 from the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY). She is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, and is a member of the AISSR Moving Matters research group.

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