In December of 2012, the artists Ricardo Dominguez, Ian Alan Paul and Jane Stevens performed as researchers and consultants from the UC Center for Drone Policy and Ethics and simulated a “Drone Crash Incident” on the UC San Diego campus. The drone crash, as a form of critical fiction and disturbance theater, was enacted over the course of one week through the release of official statements, documents, photographs, and other forms of evidence which were published in various media institutions in and around San Diego. This involved sending regular press releases to media outlets about the campus drone crash and the process of the investigation, posting on social media and university forums about the incident, setting up a website, and putting up posters around campus as a way to expand the fiction’s narrative across multiple platforms and spaces. The simulative performance culminated in a public town hall on UC San Diego’s campus to discuss the crash with students, faculty, and various members of the public.
The stated mission of the UC Center for Drone Policy and Ethics was included in press materials in the weeks leading up to the simulation as a way to accumulate a fictive reputation for the institution, and was described in these terms:
The UC Center for Drone Policy and Ethics (UCDPE) is a new research institution founded by the UC Office of the President (UCOP) to explore the emerging implications of drone research, use and production within the UC system. Bringing together a group of interdisciplinary scholars and researchers from across the UC campuses, the center is involved in several collaborative research projects involving students, faculty and policymakers at the cutting edge of Unmanned Aerial Systems studies.
Before the town hall, University of California officials disavowed the occurrence of any drone crash and denied the existence of the UC Center for Drone Policy and Ethics. These statements were subsequently repudiated by the UCDPE. At the town hall event, Ricardo Dominguez and Ian Alan Paul presented records of the crash and elaborated upon various theoretical and political concepts related to drones, linking these issues to the ongoing research and production of military drones in San Diego and on the UCSD campus. Jane Stevens gave a presentation on the history of drone crashes, which was followed by a conversation with the students, faculty, activists, and community members that attended the speculative fiction’s event.
The archived statements from the UC Center for Drone Policy and Ethics can be read on the institution’s website.
Press Coverage of the Drone Crash Incident can be found here:
“Drone Crashes On UC San Diego Campus, Revealed As ‘New Media Art Project’” (Huffington Post)
“Source of Mystery Drone Crash Revealed” (NBC San Diego)
“Drone crash on college campus in San Diego is art-hoax” (Boing Boing)