Social Studies of Outer Space

Cite as:

Tamara Alvarez, Michael Clormann, Craig Jones, Alexander Taylor, Richard Tutton, and Matjaz Vidmar. 2019. "Social Studies of Outer Space". In Innovating STS Digital Exhibit, curated by Aalok Khandekar and Kim Fortun. Society for Social Studies of Science. August.

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


What are Social Studies of Outer Space?

This Innovating STS Exhibit will be an interactive gallery of posters that present themes from the work of a new network of scholars engaged in critical STS work on outer space science and technology. Organized under the rubric Social Studies of Outer Space (Messeri 2016), this network includes sociologists, anthropologists, historians and cultural theorists, and advances critical perspectives on future engagements in STS with outer space as well as planeto-orbital infrastructures and environments. Human spaceflight, one of the foremost technoscientific projects of the twentieth century, promised a radical transformation of human society. While many of the early promises of humans in space remain unfulfilled, renewed commercial interest in spaceflight can be seen, such as commercial space launches (i.e., SpaceX, Blue Origin), space tourism (Virgin Galactic) and asteroid mining ventures. New governmental actors (i.e. China, India) are investing in new space exploration programmes and establishing economic interests in orbit.

Why do we do it?

STS scholarship has so far demonstrated limited interest in this area relative to other technoscientific fields. However, multidisciplinary approaches are emerging to address outer space in terms of ‘New Space’ economics, technopolitics, extractivism, space archaeologies, human-machine relations, waste and sustainability, research infrastructures, globalization, sociotechnical imaginaries, surveillance, and warfare. This interactive exhibit will showcase how new STS work is reaching outer space and reflect on its specific impact on STS paradigms. We highlight how outer space technoscience is a contested site of innovation and investment in particular sociotechnical futures. The exhibited content will be digitalized and made available for online archiving.