Saturday, June 28, 2008

Space and Culture

I wrote the following as part of an exercise during my all-day English tutoring class today. I'll discuss the class in another post. I'd like to focus on this topic here to keep my food groups separate.


The culture of a spacefaring society will be as important to its members as the technologies that keep people alive. Machines sustain the body, but culture will sustain the soul. The simple fact of living in space will mean a whole new realm of experiences that people will want to communicate. This will take the forms we already know well--literature, art, music, religion, etc. However, the sheer uniqueness of an alien world or zero gravity might result in completely new forms of artistic and cultural expression.

What will dance look like in zero gravity? How will sculpture be different in the low gravity of the Moon? What stories might be told or hymns written in the dark places between worlds? To some extent, we will carry our old traditions with us, but as we explore and experience new places, those traditions will inevitably change, as they have changed since the dawn of history.


That's all I had time for in class, but I think this would make an interesting article for Ad Astra. Space advocates talk a great deal about the technologies needed to travel through and survive in space, but somewhat less attention is paid to the lifestyles of the people living there. That's why I've been pushing for artists contributing to the NSS Space Settlement Calendar to show people or more domestic activities (sports & recreation, home & family, romance, work). Most people cannot picture themselves piloting a spacecraft or performing a scientific experiment, but they could imagine building a snowman on Mars, praying in a cathedral beneath the Peaks of Eternal Light on the Moon, or skiing on the slopes of Europa.


  • What will a spaceborne culture look like?
  • What will their traditions/rituals/laws/taboos be?
  • What will their art look like?
  • How will they dance?
  • What will their music sound like?
  • Will their paintings be realistic--to capture the real wonders around them, will they go even further abstract than art today, or will artists of the future create more "back to Earth"-themed works?
  • Will space-based blogging become an art form unto itself?
  • How will people entertain themselves on other worlds?

Your thoughts are welcome.

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