In a time when military strikes can be controlled from remote location, without ever having to engage with the enemy directly, it is easier than ever to become distanced from the realities of war. So data artist Josh Begley decided to bring things closer to home with an app he calls Drones+. The app works by sending the user a notification every time a drone strike occurs, including information about where it took place and how many were killed, putting a face to the anonymous violence that the United States visits on both enemies and innocent bystanders. Drones+ was recently honored as a finalist for the 2013 INDEX: Award.
In Pakistan alone, the US has used drones at least 360 times, killing an estimated 3,000 people, 10 percent of whom were civilians. But sometimes it is easy to forget that thousands of people are dying in a country with which the US is not even at war when the battle is fought using an unmanned drone. Begley wanted to prompt discussion and send citizens a reminder about the ethics and impact of the controversial drone program and figured that a small alert every time a drone strike occurs would be the perfect catalyst. After all, most people carry their phone with them all the time, so a little pop-up alert would be a great way to keep the drone program in the forefront of conversation.
The app was recently featured at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City. Unfortunately, Apple has repeatedly refused to approve Begley’s app, which means that Drones+ won’t be available on the iPhone, at least for the time being. But those who are interested can follow the app on Twitter, where each drone strike is detailed, reminding us about the true costs of the drone program. You can also keep up-to-date on Begley’s progress at his app’s website.