Aerial Play

Aerial Play: Drone Medium, Mobility, Communication, and Culture

By Julia M. Hildebrand

This book explores recreational uses of consumer drones from the lenses of media ecology, mobile communication, mobilities research, and science and technology studies. In this provocative ethnography, Julia M. Hildebrand discusses camera drones as mobile media for meaningful play. She thus widens perspectives onto the flying camera as foremost unmanned aircraft, spying tool, or dangerous toy towards a more comprehensive understanding of its potentials.

How should we situate drone practices in recreational spaces? What ways of seeing, moving, and being do hobby drones open up? Across chapters about drone geography, communication, mobility, visuality, and human-machine relations, Aerial Play introduces novel frameworks for drone affordances, such as communication on the fly, disembodied mobilities, auratic vertical play, and drone-mindedness.

In the mobile companionship with her own drone, Hildebrand contributes an innovative “auto-technographic” method for the self-reflective study of media and mobility. Ultimately, her grounded and aerial fieldwork illuminates new technological, mobile, visual, and social relations in everyday spaces.


  1. Introduction: Powerful Play
  2. Understanding (with) the Drone
  3. Situating Hobby Drone Practices
  4. Communicating on the Fly
  5. Moving and Not Moving Up in the Air
  6. Seeing like a Consumer Drone
  7. Dancing with My Drone
  8. Conclusion: Open Skies?

Julia M. Hildebrand is Assistant Professor of Communication at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, USA, and member of IAMCR.

The above text is from the publisher’s description of the book:

Title: Aerial Play: Drone Medium, Mobility, Communication, and Culture
Author: Julia M. Hildebrand
Published: 2021
Pages: 207
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

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