a journal of personal fieldwork experiences and impressions
It’s suddenly September! If you’re interested in space and Australian, you’re probably aware that next week the IAC2017 kicks off in Adelaide.
The International Astronautical Congress, which was held last year in Guadalajara, will take place in my not-so-little hometown of Adelaide, in South Australia. It opens on Monday September 25th, and will continue through the week. This is a pretty big deal for Adelaide, and for Australia, as government and private priorities are shifting to focus on space once more. Hopefully we will see many opportunities to network, and build ideas, projects, and futures together (and maybe Elon Musk can fix our power & icecream infrastructures while he’s here).
You can find out more about the Congress here. There are so many incredible events and sessions to choose from - with over 2000 abstracts accepted, this will definitely be the biggest conference I've ever attended.
If you’re wondering what the heck Australia has to do with space, I’ll point you towards some cool current discussions about Australia’s space industry and role in the global scene. This recent article by UNSW PhD candidate & space historian Kerrie Dougherty discusses how Australia went from a leader/significant global player to one of only 2 OECD countries without a space agency, in just half a century, and is great if you want a speedy historical overview with helpful links to follow! I also highly recommend checking out our resident space archaeologist, Dr Space Junk, who approaches the study of space as a cultural landscape, and has done some really interesting stuff on Australia's historical involvement in space projects, from a cultural heritage management perspective. You can find many recent free-to-read articles by her here, and her blog is super interesting too!
If you’re already sold and planning on attending – I’m here to fieldwork and network and present my research. If you’re keen for coffee and a conference buddy, hit me up! If you’re interested in chatting with me/getting involved in my research in some form/becoming a participant, I would love to work with you!
I’ll be presenting 2 different talks this year.
One is a collaborative effort, as part of the SGAC’s Space Exploration Project Group’s output – we look at proposals for large-scale human space/Mars colonisation or resettlement as a solution to certain key global problems here on Earth (particularly human overpopulation, critical resource shortages and pollution) and run some of the numbers, assuming current technologies and that we could start sending people now. The goal is to assess the feasibility of such claims, and highlight some realistic limitations to some of these ideas and proposals, in the hopes of building conversations and possibilities in productive directions. Take-homes – Solving problems of global human population by sending heaps of people off-Earth is (if you’re using RP-1/LOX to get to LEO) not possible, given the severely limited global mineral oil reserves. If we somehow found/had enough, the environmental effects would be wild. Human space exploration and settlement may have many selling points and productive possibilities, but it won’t solve those particular global problems (at least not now). The (only slightly) inflammatory title is: Why space colonies will not solve (all) terrestrial problems (Sorry NewSpacers who dare to dream – I do my best to qualify this carefully I promise!) Link to the Session is here.
The other is my own. Basically, it’s just a short outline of my ongoing research – I describe the project structure, motivations & contributions, methods & approaches, before sharing some tentative insights from thematic analysis of interviews and experiences of participant observation that I’ve conducted so far. I discuss what the normalisation of social and new media into our contemporary digitally-mediated social life has meant for people who work in the space industry, in space-related projects and networks – how their communicative and representational work is changing, and the kinds of expectations, pressures and challenges this throws up. Then I point to some interesting conceptualisations of publics and the public operationalised by various media practitioners in the field and suggest that frameworks of public relevance and utility are playing a key role in my (mainly Australian & US) participants’ understandings – more than whether the public is knowledgeable or has a knowledge deficit, conversations often revolved around whether the public is relevant to space industry/projects or not, and the utility of publics as a resource that can be harnessed to get work and projects done. I tie this into particular communication styles/modes, and particular digital contexts (specific platforms & applications), the significance of which will be explored further as fieldwork and analysis continue. Here’s a link to the session – there’s some cool stuff in here!
I’ll be actively posting, researching, fieldworking, recruiting at the con, so things will be pretty busy, but hopefully you can catch updates from me on Twitter! Look forward to some reflections, photos, notes, and debriefs in the coming weeks as I get back into my Australia based research, analytic-work, and get through the post-con crash.