Assembling an infrastructure for historic climate data recovery: data friction in practice

Jo Bates, Paula Goodale, Yuwei Lin, Penny Andrews

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Abstract

Purpose
We adopt an assemblage theory lens to examine the socio-material forces shaping the development of an infrastructure for the recovery of archived historical marine weather records for use in contemporary climate datasets.

Design/methodology/approach
We adopted a Data Journeys approach to research design, conducting in-depth semi-structured interviews with climate scientists, citizen scientists, and a climate historian who were engaged at key sites across the journey of data from historical record to the ICOADS database. Interview data were complemented by further qualitative data collected via observations of working practices, a digital ethnography of citizen scientists' online forums, and documentation relevant to the circulation and governance of climate data across emergent data infrastructures. Data were thematically analysed (Ryan and Bernard, 2003), with themes being informed primarily by the theoretical framework.

Findings
We identify and critically examine key points of friction in the constitution of the data recovery infrastructure and the circulation of data through it, and identify the reflexive and adaptive nature of the beliefs and practices fostered by influential actors within the assemblage in order to progress efforts to build an infrastructure despite significant challenges. We conclude by addressing possible limitations of some of these adaptive practices within the context of the early twenty-first century neoliberal state, and in light of current debates about data justice.

Originality/value
The paper draws upon original empirical data and a novel theoretical framework that draws together Deleuze and Guattari’s assemblage theory with key concepts from the field of Critical Data Studies (Data Journeys, Data Friction, Data Assemblage) to illuminate the socio-material constitution of the data recovery infrastructure within the context of the early twenty-first century neoliberal state.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)791-806
JournalJournal of Documentation
Volume75
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2019

Keywords

  • citizen sciences
  • data friction
  • data assemblage
  • data infrastructures
  • climate data
  • historic records
  • data practices

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