Accepted Paper:

Premediating a deep future: visualizations of deep geological repositories for radioactive waste  


Simon Zingerle (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

Building on a comparison of two promotional videos that envision the construction and operation of deep geological repositories for high level radioactive, this presentation explores the material politics of computer generated visualizations.

Paper long abstract:

The question of how to properly and safely dispose of radioactive waste is one most pressing sociotechnical problems of our time. Governments across Europe are looking towards the construction of deep geological repositories (DGRs) as a possible solution. These repositories are envisioned as being able to safely isolate high level radioactive waste from the environment for at least one million years. In order to realize these monumental projects that extend far into the future, governments not only have to find suitable geological conditions and existing infrastructures, but communities surrounding the potential site must accept their presence as well, as the more conventional decide-announce-defend approach has previously met considerable resistance.

Promotional videos of DGRs, heavily relying on computer generated images (CGI), play a crucial role in governmental efforts to create acceptance for this technology. The use of CGI enables the videos' producers to make imagined subterranean structures visible and to carefully craft visual narratives--granting (hyper)visibility to particular matters of concern whilst simultaneously rendering others invisible.

This presentation draws upon a comparison of two videos created by the German and Finnish governments respectively, as part of their public information campaigns to promote the construction of DGRs. By exploring the material politics of these visualizations and highlighting their (dis)similarities, I will aim to understand the ways in which CGIs can become mobilized as tools of governance to premediate a desired future.

Panel E04
Meeting the visual