"A Quiet Disposition" is an ongoing project exploring technology, culture and warfare.
"The Disposition Matrix" is the term used by the US Government for its intelligence-gathering and targetting processes. Overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center and in development for some time, the Matrix is usually described as a database for generating capture and "kill lists", but the criteria for both adding to and acting on the information in the database is not public. One of the outcomes of the process is the ongoing, undeclared CIA drone war in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. These attacks have killed an estimated 3105 people in Pakistan alone since June 2004, including 535 confirmed civilians and 175 children. (Sources: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, New America Foundation.)
The architectural theorist Keller Easterling uses the term "disposition" in other contexts, to refer to the propensity or temperament of forms which produce actions. Disposition is found not in activity itself, but in the relationships or relative positions of the objects that produce action. Consider a motorway: you can describe the movement of the cars, but the active form is immanent in the concrete itself; the motorway has a disposition. If such forms can be said to have a disposition, to what extent can they be said to possess agency?
For Easterling, architectures and infrastructures perform aspects of their being: not merely spatial objects, they shape the world around them on many levels: legal, political, technological. The sociologist Erving Goffman in turn uses the term "disposition" to describe the entire performance, including - in human terms - gesture, posture, expression and intent. These subtexts are capable of overwhelming what is being merely said: the distinction between the aesthetics of what is being depicted, and what is actually being done.
Drones - the armed, unmanned planes in action around the world - are dispositional. Their significance is not wholly in their appearance, but in how they transform the space around them; both the physical space (the privileged view of the weaponised surveillance camera at 50,000 feet) and the legal, national and diplomatic spaces that as a result permits new kinds of warfare and assassination. And the Disposition Matrix is an organising principle: not a thing, not a technology, not an object, but an active form, a reorientation of intent into another dimension or mode of expression. In another sense, the Disposition Matrix is the network itself, the internet and us, an abstract machine, intangible but effective. Finally, the Disposition Matrix is an attitude and a performance.
"A Quiet Disposition" is an intelligence-gathering system turned back on its namesake. A weak artificial intelligence or naive neural network, the system exists on the network, constantly searching the internet for news articles and other sources of information about drones, and drone-related technologies, including the Disposition Matrix itself. When it finds relevant texts, it analyses them, cataloguing names, objects, terminologies, and the relationships between them. From these relationships it draws its own conclusions, connecting pairs of names linked through the information it has gathered.
For "Coded Conduct", an exhibition at Pilar Corrias gallery in London in April 2013, I presented a set of ten "Disposition Matrix" books, each containing a snapshot of 250 such pairings identified by the database, dated to their production, together with the linking terms and texts generated automatically by the system in an attempt to make sense of them. Alongside the books, a visualisation of the decision engine in process runs constantly, querying the database and producing new pairings based on the connections it is constantly identifying. The books are an archive of the state of the database as it attempts to understand; the visualisation a reminder that this process is ongoing and indefinite.