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Jo Aiken

Jo-Aiken












Year of Start: 2014 
Supervisors: Susanne Kuechler, Victor Buchli, Adam Drazin, Christina Wasson (USA-UNT) 
Subject: Material Culture
Fieldsite: NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas (USA)

PhD Research

Making Martians: Creating otherworldly personhood and subjectivity

In Making Martians, I am exploring how the cultural identity of future Mars inhabitants (i.e. "Martians") are being constructed and de-constructed in the selection, training, and day-to-day activities of current and former astronauts on Earth and in space (but not yet on Mars). Ideas of person and self of the American astronaut are constructed through the built environment of space vehicles and tools as well as through NASA's organizational culture, training, and the popular culture of science fiction. For this reason, the primary field site for this research is at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), the headquarters for all crewed spaceflight activities, so that the day-to-day life of the astronaut and flight controller, the space "team", can be thoroughly explored.

The space team is comprised of the crew in outer space, the flight controllers who support them, and the technologies used to facilitate the performance of both. The question of what identities are created through these interactions lies within the complex conceptualization of time, space, and materials. For the astronaut, time becomes a compromise between what is relative to the habitat and what is accepted by the Earth-bound flight controllers with whom they communicate. Place, or location in space, is a similarly constructed reality. This research will address these complexities, and more, of future space travel in the hopes of gaining an understanding of the evolving conceptualizations of human-material interactions, self, and personhood.

Research Interests 

  • Space Anthropology
  • U/X & Design Anthropology
  • Applied Anthropology
  • Human Automation and Robotic Interaction

Publications

2017. Aiken, Jo. Pursuing the Hard Road to Practice, the British PhD. In Using Anthropology in the World: A Guide to Becoming an Anthropologist Practitioner, ed. Riall Nolan. Taylor & Francis.
2017. Pahl, Shane, Angela Ramer, and Jo Aiken. Organizational Change From the Inside. In Cultural Change from the Perspective of Anthropology in Business, eds. Elizabeth Briody and Maryann McCabe. Lexington Books, forthcoming 2017.
2016. Aiken, Jo, Victoria Schlieder and Christina Wasson. Ethical Ambiguities in a Design Anthropology Class. In Ethics in the Anthropology of Business: Explorations in Theory, Practice, and Pedagogy, eds. Robert Morais and Timothy Malefyt. Routledge.
2015. Aiken, Jo. Otherworldly Anthropology: Past, Present, and Future Contributions of Ethnographers to Space Exploration. In Unexpected Anthropology, eds. Sheena Nahmand Cortney Hughes Rinker. Routledge.
2014. Aiken, Jo. Close Encounters of the Client Kind. Theme issue, "Practicing Anthropology in the Private Sector," Practicing Anthropology 36(2):8-12.
2014. Aiken, Jo, Victoria Schlieder and Christina Wasson.  "No More Cakes and Ale?" Discovering Ethical Gray Areas in a Design Anthropology Class. Theme issue, "Ethics in Business Anthropology," Journal of Business Anthropology 1(1):38-61.
2013. Aiken, Jo.  Integrating Organizational and Design Perspectives to Address Challenges of Renewal: A Case Study of NASA's Post-Shuttle Workforce Transition. Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings. Redmond, WA: National Association for the Practice of Anthropology.

Presentations & Conferences 

2017. Aiken, Jo. Anthropology+ Architecture: Achieving Agency as Applied Anthropologists. Paper presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) 77th Annual Meeting. March 2017, Santa Fe, NM.
2016. Aiken, Jo. An engineer, an architect, and an anthropologist walk into a conference room.... Paper presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) 76th Annual Meeting. March 2016, Vancouver, Canada.
2014. Aiken, Jo. Privacy Needs for Long-Duration Spaceflight: An Anthropological Approach.Paper presented at the Southwest Regional Human Factors and Ergonomic Society Symposium. June 2014, College Station.
2014. Aiken, Jo.  Privacy: It Takes Two to Tango (and sometimes more). Paper presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) 74th Annual Meeting. March 2014, Albuquerque.
2014. Invited presenter on panel, "Business Anthropology Roundtable: New Voices, New Destinations, New Futures". Panel presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) 74th Annual Meeting. March 2014, Albuquerque.
2013. Aiken, Jo. Space in Space: Exploring Perceptions of Privacy in Determining Minimal Habitable Volume for Long-Duration Spaceflight. Paper presented at the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC) Master's and Doctoral Colloquium. September 2013, London.
2012. Wasson, Christina, Victoria Schlieder and Jo Aiken. Crossing from class to clients: Learning ethics through a design anthropology class. Paper presented at the American Anthropological Association 111th Annual Meeting. November 2012, San Francisco.
2012. Aiken, Jo. Integrating Organizational and Design Perspectives to Address Challenges of Renewal: A Case Study of NASA's Post-Shuttle Workforce Transition. Paper presented at the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference. October 2012, Savannah. 

Teaching Experience

  • 2016 - present. Visiting Lecturer, International Space University, Strasbourg, France  Space Anthropology (Fall 2016).
  • 2016 - present. Executive Education Instructor, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. Courses: Organizational Culture (Summer 2016, Fall 2016,  Spring 2017)  Collaboration & Communication (Fall 2016, Spring  2017, Summer 2017),  Qualitative Interviewing & Analysis (Fall  2016).           
  • 2012 - 2014. Teaching Assistant,  Department of Anthropology University of North Texas, Denton, Texas.  Courses: American Culture (Spring 2013, Summer 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014) Applied Anthropology (Fall 2012).

Education History

  • MPhil/PhD Anthropology/Material Culture, UCL (2014 - present)
  • MA /Applied Anthropology/Design Anthropology, University of North Texas (USA)
  • BS/Aerospace Engineering/Leadership Development, Texas A&M University (USA)

Honours, Awards & Funding

Presidential Management Fellow (2015-2017)
Rotary International Global Scholar (2014-2015)

Additional Information

Current Full-time Professional Position: NASA Presidential Management Fellow, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas