Keynote: Science Fiction in Action: Notes from an ethnographer of a spacecraft team

Janet Vertesi, Princeton University Drawing on ethnographic studies of spacecraft teams, I propose the study of science fiction in action, examining science fiction not just as a cultural product but as an active part of team culture. I show how…

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Janet Vertesi, Princeton University

Drawing on ethnographic studies of spacecraft teams, I propose the study of science fiction in action, examining science fiction not just as a cultural product but as an active part of team culture. I show how references to science fiction touchstones like Star Trek and 2001: A Space Odyssey are important for group membership, for sociopolitical commentary, and for active engagement and critique as part of team heritage and trajectory. Although many studies of science fiction are right to point out the role of sociotechnical imaginaries in state formation, perpetuating colonial or gendered visions, and establishing a shared future, I suggest that following science fiction in action allows us to see how these same critiques are engaged by the very actors involved in space exploration themselves, showing science fiction to be an active part of team culture and mission experience in perhaps unexpected ways.

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