Accepted Paper:

Towards a visual sociology of expectations: the case of Mars One  

Author:

Richard Tutton (Lancaster University)

Paper short abstract:

Using the case study of Mars One, this paper explores how to do a visual sociology of expectations and to think further about how visual experience is embedded in social and cultural practices of futurity in contemporary societies.

Paper long abstract:

The sociology of expectations literature tends to conceive of expectations in discursive terms, mediated through various specialist and more general media forms to different audiences. However, some authors have argued for a shift away from a focus only on metaphors, key terms and scripts and narratives to develop a 'visual sociology of expectations' (Losch 2006). We are presented with innumerable visual images of what the future could or would be like in our 'hyper-visual' culture, in which visual experience is embedded in cultural and social practices. For STS scholars, the study of the visual is central to their interest in knowledge production in sites such as laboratories (Burri and Dumit 2007). However, for visual sociologists their interest in the visual is linked to concerns with embodiment, affect and the sensory (Rose 2014). I engage with these conceptual and analytical questions about the visual through the case study of Mars One, which has the ambitious and controversial plan to create a permanent human settlement on the planet Mars. I analyze digital images and videos which Mars One has commissioned to introduce the venture, to crowdsource funding for one of its robotic missions, and to relate details about its astronaut recruitment and selection programme. This case study offers a way to to think about how the visual experience is embedded in social and cultural practices of futurity in contemporary societies.

Panel T028
Futures in the making and re-making