Vision & Verticality: A Sociology of the Sky

Vision & Verticality is a rich and accessible volume that maps current debates within the expanded field of image-based, vertical analysis. With contributions from astronauts, artists, architects, sociologists, urbanists, visual culture theorists, geographers, anthropologists and more this edited volume signals new moves in inter and transdisciplinary research on visual-vertical thinking and related practices within the humanities and across the arts.

Grounded in socio-visual thinking, Vision & Verticality addresses the emerging shift in the way social scientists move from a sociology of or through images towards a sociology with images. In doing so, this volume illustrates how the sky and atmosphere remain a surprisingly underexplored domain within visual sociology, beyond the framework of drone-related research. Finally, this volume asserts how vertical and atmospherically framed socio-visual analysis is beginning to shape and inform how we see and experience urban spaces, travel, leisure, politics, and environmental challenges through various prisms, including artistic practices, methodological processes, and user-generated content.


"Vision and Verticality is a quite beautiful and highly original collection on vision, verticality and the immersive volumes of the air. It is an enthralling, soaring book, told from multiple established and emerging voices, including academics, astronauts, artists, activists, architects, anthropologists and more. The text performs an acrobatic display of the more-than visual apprehensions of the vertical through densely detailed, creative combinations of chapters, essays, preambles, empirical work and interviews, that the editors have choreographed to perfection. The entries expose and break through numerous thresholds with and beyond vertical views and vision - embodied, photographic and digitally mediated - in and of the sky, and the ground and at the limits of human bodies, buildings, atmospheres, outer-space, war, AI, and, of course, disciplinary boundaries."

Vision and Verticality offers a remarkable unsettling of both weightiness and lightness bringing a strange equilibrium to contemplate. It offers grounding and lift to an emergent more-than sociological expanse of verticality, air and their multitudes of practice. Extraordinary.

Peter Adey, Professor of Human Geography (and Honorary Principal Fellow, University of Melbourne); Royal Holloway University of London

"There was a time when seeing from the sky was reserved for mountain climbers or the gods that humans placed above them. Now seeing from above and experiencing the sky has become part of the modern experience. Bratchford and Zuev have invited sociologists, artists and dancers, geographers, urbanists, astronauts and deep-water divers, cultural theorists, and post-modernists, to comment on what they have referred to as the “sociology of the sky.” Vision and Verticality offers dialogue across disciplines, integration of novel and well-worn theories, reports on research, and reflection on the meaning of the new modern. This volume also offers sobering reflection of the environmental consequences of new tower cities and created environments where even the air is artificial. We are reminded of the now ubiquitous drones that have redesigned war, tourism, environmental research and surveillance, while clogging the skies and endangering airspace. The authors have made it clear that our consciousness has been compressed and compromised by the Google-map phenomenon, and that as a result the city, experienced at eye level or from above, has been profoundly altered. The super-rich inhabit luxury towers and flit from one elevated environment of privilege to another via their helicopters and heliopads, while the masses huddle below. Now the vertical experience includes a vertically organized social stratification as well as the wonder of seeing what before could only be imagined.

Vision and Verticality is dizzying, brilliant and eclectic. It’s reach is broad and the topics introduced will have currency far into the future."

Douglas Harper – Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Duquesne University, USA. Founding member of the International Visual Sociological Association. Founding editor of Visual Studies Journal and author of Visual Sociology (Routledge).

This book is an accessible, provocative and thoughtfully curated collection of ground-breaking interventions into the increasingly multidisciplinary field of Visual Studies. Pedagogically and polemically rich, the volume sets forth an expanded field of visual inquiry that broadens understandings of advanced technological imaging that have been overlooked.
Derek Conrad Murray, Professor, History of Art and Visual Culture, University of California, USA

© Gary Bratchford