Right of assembly

October 10, 2018

Early in the interview with Judith Butler by Arne De Boever, Butler says that ‘right of assembly has often been understood as an abstract right without thinking about the fact that it requires bodies to come together’. I find this very interesting as we are living in a time when the internet plays a massive part in how we communicate. Of course, it would depend on how one defines such terms as ‘assembly’ and ‘bodies’, but at first it seems almost obvious that that statement is no longer true. One could point to the Arab Spring, a series of mass demonstrations that started in 2010 against various regimes in North Africa and the Middle East. The first demonstration is said to have started through online ‘assembly’ on various platforms, with Twitter arguably being the most important one. When assembling through the internet there is no need for bodies to come together, people communicate and express their voices via the cloud instead. One could of course argue that the people are coming together via physical servers and the demonstration is therefore still in need of physical space, however I believe that is not relevant in this case. Being able to express oneself through the internet also plays a massive role in terms of who’s demonstrating, people more vulnerable to physical presence in a physical assembly are arguably more likely to raise their voice online, this is of course an effect which can have both positive and negative consequences. If we go back to the Arab Spring, we find that the demonstrations eventually evolved to physical assemblies. People were going out in the streets and assembled in physical public spaces. This seem to be the recipe for most demonstrations today, first and partly online, then eventually physical assemblies. One can therefore argue that public spaces may not be essential to our right of assembly, but it plays a very important part. However, that argument relies widely uninterrupted access to the relevant online platforms and the infrastructure that is the internet. What happens when that infrastructure breaks down, or when people do not have access to it in the first place? It seems that we fall back on that right of assembly requires a physical space where bodies can come together to communicate and express their opinions.

 

Although the primary function of the drone port is to physically exist and to act as a base for drones sending and receiving goods it also has important bi-functions. The concept of the drone port involves an architecture that the community would be able to build themselves. This would of course be a cheaper and more realistic approach to realising the concept. One can also argue it would strengthen the community’s relationship with the drone port, it could allow the community to take ownership of it and use it. This brings us to another bi-function which Ledgard and his team are hoping to happen; that it would essentially act as a community meeting place. In a sense, the community would be creating its own public space that could be used for assemblies. As the drone ports are connected to a larger system, it could also be seen as a great place to demonstrate in terms of outward attention. There is of course several problems arising parallel to this, one being the vulnerability of the demonstrators using a potentially essential piece of infrastructure they themselves depend on as a bargaining chip in demonstrations.

I find it interesting how the whole concept of Ledgard and Foster’s drone port was developed as a mean to avoid the current unreliable road system in Africa. A system which breaks down and shows its weaknesses time and again due to weather and other various reasons. As mentioned, the drone system is firstly meant to aid humanitarian work, but it is hoped to eventually become one of the main ways of transporting goods between African towns. In the best-case scenario, the African infrastructure of goods, which is currently discussed and visible due to the many moments of failure would eventually become less noticeable due to it running smoothly. If that happens, the drone port could then potentially take on a social role such as a market where people sell and buy goods, rather than a transportation hub.

Task 2 // Henrik Holte

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