This talk will set out the motivating questions and initial analytic framing of my research in progress on the problem of ‘situational awareness’ within contemporary forms of warfare.

This is part of the Oxford Digital Ethnography Group Seminar Series; this seminar series gathers leading scholars and practitioners to reflect on how ethnography is adapting to the study of heavily-mediated worlds.

This talk will set out the motivating questions and initial analytic framing of my research in progress on the problem of ‘situational awareness’ within contemporary forms of (particularly U.S.) warfare. My focus is on the interfaces that configure war fighters to achieve ‘recognition’ of relevant subjects and objects, including the discriminations of us and them that are prerequisites for defensible killing. I’m interested more specifically in the complex relations of mediation and embodiment, distance and proximity, vulnerability and impunity that comprise contemporary configurations of warfare, as the virtual is infused with real figurations and has its own material effects, and the real environments of war fighting are increasingly virtual. The empirical basis for the project at the moment is the archive of Flatworld, an immersive training environment developed between 2001 and 2008 as the flagship project of the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. I read the project through a frame inspired by Judith Butler’s theoretical analysis of figuration’s generative agencies, to try to articulate further the simulation’s discursive and material effects.