Interrupting earthly modes of doing STS

Cite as:

Alvarez, Tamara. 2019. "Interrupting earthly modes of doing STS" In "Social Studies of Outer Space." In Innovating STS Digital Exhibit, curated by Aalok Khandekar and Kim Fortun. Society for Social Studies of Science. August.

Essay map

This essay is part of the meta essay on the Social Studies of Outer Space group. Another essay related to the shared question of "how does this innovation interrupt habitual modes of doing STS?" can be found at Terracentric Positionings.


Nothing new in outer space?

As with other sociotechnical endeavours, outer space has long been the site of social and political struggles. Nation states have competed with each other over access to orbital space for militaristic or commercial uses, to send probes and robots to other planetary bodies, and to craft messages for putative extrasolar species. Elites have also imagined outer space as somewhere they can exercise power and influence: today, we can see very clearly in the form of companies led by wealthy billionaires, such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson, amongst others. They are seeking to shape collective imaginaries of what the future of humans in outer space will be like. In turn, scholars, journalists and other citizen groups also contest these elite imaginings and challenge us to think differently about outer space, to challenge the way that media reporting for example often rehearses the language of ‘colonizing’ or ‘colonies’.

One task for our network then is to join with this effort to challenge and resist, to interrupt hegemonic imaginings of human futures.




Social Studies of Outer Space interrupt terrestrial modes of doing STS. Although our sociological and ethnographic research takes place in institutions and research centers on Earth, we address discourses, artifacts, and human-nonhuman assemblages that reach beyond our home planet: lunar landers, architectural plans for Mars colonies, spectrometers that search for extraterrestrial biosignatures, astronaut bodies, nationalist narratives, orbital infrastructures and many more.

About Innovating STS

Furthering its theme, Innovations, Interruptions, Regenerations , the 2019 annual 4S meeting in New Orleans will include a special exhibit, Innovating STS , that showcases innovations ...Read more

Shared Questions: Innovating STS

All Innovating STS exhibits are oriented by nine shared questions in order to generate comparative insight. These are:

ARTICULATION: What STS innovations (of theory, methodology, pedagogy...Read more