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High-risk and long-term: future narratives of the space industry

Johnson, Mark (2015) High-risk and long-term: future narratives of the space industry. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the use of future narratives in high-risk industries, using the case study of the United Kingdom (UK) space industry. Situated at the intersection of prior scholarly work on both futures and narratives, future narratives are stories, roadmaps or predictions that are orientated towards a long-term perspective – years or decades ahead – and seek to present a coherent outcome for a given technology. Drawing on a textual analysis of in-depth interviews conducted with actors in the public and private space sectors in the UK, this thesis proposes a three-part typology for understanding the forms of future narratives generated to promote, defend and further the cause of such technologies. The first is the finite future. This is a promissory narrative which has a clear goal, a clear end-point, and a number of systems for keeping those within a high-risk development programme tied to the success or failure of that programme. The second is the normalized future – this serves as a stark contrast to the promises of cutting-edge technology, innovation and exotic science from the earlier days of space technology, and positions space as a mundane and normalized technological industry that is merely ‘a part of everyday life’. The third is the adaptive future which consists of qualifications and other forms of credibility, and projects the viability and trustworthiness of a technology indefinitely into the future. By studying these narratives the thesis contributes to a body of work on high-risk technologies and the industries that produce them. The findings from the project lead me to argue that future narratives of this sort are crucial to understanding contemporary high-risk technologies; that the temporal dimension of such development programmes is of critical analytical importance; and that future narratives point the way towards subsequent research for understanding this particular form of technological development.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Space industry, Science and Technology Studies, risk, time, futures, narratives
Academic Units: The University of York > Sociology (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.647082
Depositing User: Mr Mark Johnson
Date Deposited: 28 May 2015 15:22
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:32
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8926

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