Drone Views: A Multimodal Ethnographic Perspective

Serafinelli, Elisa and O'Hagan, Lauren Alex (2022). Drone Views: A Multimodal Ethnographic Perspective. Visual Communication (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1470357221106509


Drone visuals are rapidly becoming part of our sociocultural imaginaries, generating distinct images that differ from traditional visual conventions and producing unexpected perspectives of the world that reveal hidden aspects of our surroundings. Despite the growing use of camera-laden drones in a range of commercial and non-commercial activities, to date, little scholarly attention has been paid to the semiotics of drone visuals. This article is the first to draw specific attention to the compositional structure of drone visuals, combining social semiotic analysis with ethnographic insights to assess how they are changing the way we think about the world. Exploring drone hobbyists’ and developers’ perspectives on drone usage and the visuals they generate, the authors identify and examine three frequently occurring characteristics of drone visuals: top-down views, 360-degree panoramic views and ‘classic’ landscape perspectives. The critical analysis of these peculiarities leads them to argue for the potential of these innovative visions to reshape our visual culture. In their conclusion, the authors aim to open a conversation about the way technological advancements mark important sociocultural changes in sense-making processes, geographical imaginations and everyday life experiences.

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