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‘The Astrosociological Imagination’: An Anthology.

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Sat May 5, 2012 7:15 am via: Resume by Stephanie Lynne Thorburn
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‘The Astrosociological Imagination’ is a collection of humanist Sociology papers by researcher Stephanie Lynne Thorburn that seeks to engage the imagination of the space community and academic orthodoxy alike. When perceived through the mundane, vernacular confines of politics and everyday life, our modern world has presented us with a range of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Despite improvements in technology and communications, there is still a prevalent ‘closed world’ view of the economic and environmental crises. ‘Gaia’ Earth has become an unstable home as we contemplate our uncertain future. Amongst continuing recession, there is a disharmonious, uneven distribution of wealth and a fundamental shortage of living space in context of a growing population.

Socioastronomy is an emergent discipline that evaluates within a postmodern milieu, the promise offered by the Space Renaissance. In many regards, the Space Renaissance Initiative (SRI) is continuing the pioneering tradition of Yuri Gagarin and NASA, originating in the 1960’s. Both the Renaissance and 1960’s were times of incomparable cultural evolution; when funding budgets were not as frugal, space exploration emerged as ‘man’ established a presence outside the locale of our own atmosphere.

Nowadays, there is often emphasis on military as opposed to civilian budgets, with notions of space tourism or manned ‘missions to Mars’ relegated lower on the political agenda. The Space Renaissance has reappraised our priorities and expectations for future years, regarding space as an ally as we become more technologically mature. The organisation has amalgamated diverse elements of the space community including the Moon Society (US), Advanced Technology Working Group (US) and Space Future (UK, Japan.) Space Renaissance utilise the avant-garde scientific theories of Prof Gerard O’Neill and Tsiolkovsky to forward an ‘Astronautic Humanist’ viewpoint. The SRI’s 2011 publication ‘Three Thesis for the Space Renaissance’ by Autino, Collins & Cavallo sets out a series of practical tasks from a civilisation risk assessment, to identification of profitable space industrial development initiatives and advocates the virtual re-creation of an O’Neill space colony.

Socioastronomy questions the rationale of Space Renaissance. The feasibility of developing our resources towards a productive, nascent space colony could still plausibly be equated the analysis of a work of modern fiction. The organisation nevertheless remains resolute that human technological sophistication has been sufficient for many years to meet the needs of our civilisation away from the confines of Earth. Socioastronomy promises a transdisciplinary, holistic standpoint, assessing dispassionately our projective future, via application of core social scientific theory and the historical lessons learned from our past.

It is not only the technical logistics of space colonisation that require assessment, but the equivocal ethical dimensions of an unknown future, potentially shaped by a form of ‘social ecology’ in an Orwellian cyber community. This dystopian vision would contrast with the egalitarian, idealistic, epistemological roots of the Space Renaissance that can be traced to the Age of Enlightenment, illustrating the necessity for careful analysis in the realms of transhumanist futurology.

‘The Astrosociological Imagination’: An Anthology.

‘The Astrosociological Imagination’ offers a collection of reflexive Sociology papers on the Space Renaissance Initiative. The work shares some of the essentially humanist themes of C. Wright Mills’ 1959 classic text ‘The Sociological Imagination’ and seeks to integrate social, personal and historical elements into a discourse analysis of the SRI. The work explores critically the conceptual precepts of Max Weber on rationalisation in contemporary industrial society in relation to environmental and socio-cultural developmental issues. The Space Renaissance Initiative is an organisation that challenges the parameters of our thinking in regard to human scientific, technological evolution.

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