Persuasive Design and Targeting of insurgents in International Law

Amin Parsa, Mahmoud Keshavarz

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The U.S. counterinsurgency – symbolised by the omnipresent killing eye of drones – as it expands from the battlefield to the monitor, is criticised for inaugurating a geographically unbounded war that subjects the everyday life of a population to wartime targeting calculation. We, however, claim that the significant feature of the so-called new technologies of looking and targeting is in their ability to negotiate laws of armed conflict into the material world in order to allude to the legitimacy of their expansive violence.
Combining design studies and legal studies, we argue that war is ontologically a material and legal practice. Not because victory is achieved by legitimately destroying enemy’s material sources of power, but because wartime targeting is legitimised through certain material and visual practices that expands the authority and legitimacy to violence. We understand these practices as persuasive design. The primary site of persuasive design in war, and law, is the military uniform. From design’s perspective, a uniform is not an instrument but an interface, mediating a space between parties involved. It determines modes of action and meaning. This means that military uniform as a specific interface generates certain practices of looking that distinguishes legitimate targets of violence - i.e. combatants - from the illegitimate ones - i.e. civilians. When military uniform is abandoned in insurgencies, other technologies of looking, drones in particular, emerge primarily to provide the persuasiveness that once was provided by military uniform. Lastly we conclude that if the uniform as an interface persuaded limited possibilities of killing, the new interface; the screen provides unlimited possibilities as it moves to digitalised ways of looking.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jun 16
EventEuropean Society for Literature, Science and the Arts 2016: Control - Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 2016 Jun 142016 Jun 17


ConferenceEuropean Society for Literature, Science and the Arts 2016
Abbreviated titleSLSA
Internet address

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Law and Society


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