Janet Vertesi on the social life of spacecraft:
How does the social organization of scientific and technical projects affect their outcomes? In this talk, Janet Vertesi draws on a decade of ethnographic fieldwork with NASA’s robotic spacecraft teams to describe how differently-organized communities make decisions, establish priorities, work together, and conduct science on other planets. In particular, she examines the contrast between a flat hierarchy and a bureaucratic team, in a comparison that recalls Apple versus Microsoft in space. As different practices lead to different outcomes in terms of data gathering, data sharing, and scientific results, Janet explores the relationship between organization and scientific knowledge.