The basic idea of VASS is to bring Arctic social science Ph.D. students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds to Vienna in order to confront them with international state-of-the-art social science approaches and methods applied outside the Arctic. At the same time, VASS will confront Arctic students with lessons learned from Alpine experience. VASS will provide its participants with in-depth treatments of three areas: 1) human-environmental interactions in the Anthropocene, 2) regimes of mobility and immobility, and 3) the study of the interrelationship of human and non-human actants in technological and infrastructural settings.
The field trip to the Austrian Alps will showcase a region that has many similarities with the Arctic in terms of environmental, infrastructural and mobility challenges, but is embedded in a quite different geographic and sociocultural setting. Alpine and arctic environments still show structural characteristics of "remote regions", i.e. low population density, out-migration and reduced accessibility. This also leads to a limited set of development options. In both cases, mining and tourism have been seen as one of the few available possibilities at different points in time. Thus, the question of what students of the Arctic can learn from alpine experiences constitutes an important dimension of VASS.
Climate change is another process that invites comparisons between arctic and alpine settings, both of which are heavily impacted by the overheating of our planet. Looking at the interactions between climate change, tourism and extractive industries will inform the practical student assignments during the field trip. These will reinforce the theoretical priorities of VASS – environmental change, human mobility, as well as material and technological dimensions of social assemblages – to make the encounter of Vienna and the Arctic a productive one for both sides.