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Sheila Jasanoff: Spaceship or Stewardship: Imaginaries of Sustainability in the Information Age. [Abstract]

This paper contrasts two approaches to implementing the notoriously ambiguous ideal of sustainability: one driven by the centralized, managerial metaphor of Spaceship Earth, and the other by a notion of stewardship that foregrounds the values of care and obligation. Both approaches depend on infrastructures to enable them, but these are built on different combinations of the material, the social, and the moral. Viewing Earth as a spaceship amenable to human guidance and control makes sense only if we also accept the power of dominant “centers of calculation” that gather and disseminate standardized knowledge instrumentally to ensure global coordination. Stewardship, by contrast, relies on infrastructures of locally shared values and distributed innovation in human-nature relations rather than on universal scientific knowledge or technology. Stewardship is often propagated by social movements seeking to promote globally sustainable ecological practices. The two approaches have markedly different implications for designing future infrastructures to promote transformations to sustainability.

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