Rethinking Verticality Through Top-Down Views in Drone Hobbyist Photography

O'Hagan, Lauren Alex and Serafinelli, Elisa (2023). Rethinking Verticality Through Top-Down Views in Drone Hobbyist Photography. Visual Studies [Early Access].



This paper adopts a geosemiotics perspective to the study of top-down views produced by drone hobbyists to explore how they challenge or disrupt traditional meanings associated with verticality. Using a dataset of 748 drone visuals collected from two months of participant observation on social media platforms, we identify four unique functions of top-down views: as abstract art, as transformations of the mundane, as playful mapping and as dronies. Through prototypical examples, we demonstrate how civilian drones have created new forms of visualising and embodying our world, acting as intermediaries between humans and nature and, thus, challenging persisting negative associations of the link between verticality and power. Overall, our findings encourage a reappraisal of the drone as an object and see it instead as a complex material assemblage of the sky, which has the ability to extend our perception, modify our geographical imaginations and multiply our possible interpretations of the top-down view.

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