Accepted paper:

Agencies in the database: the role of flagging


Sarah Inman (University of Washington)

Paper short abstract:

Database designers and archivists are central to improving natural resource management, deploying instruments and standards to achieve data interoperation. This paper explores practices and politics of making data open as a site for unpacking who data are for and what purposes they serve.

Paper long abstract:

All data and metadata hold within them records of implicit debates, forgotten decisions, missing measurements, and casual compromises. Data are neither 'raw' nor 'objective' but always formatted in a way that makes them speak - in particular ways and to particular audiences. To explore the curation of data amongst a team of salmon and data scientists, we extracted data from their GitHub repository, a common archive used for programming work, and then analyzed 185 issues-a type of entry in GitHub-to identify the major topics around which negotiations took place. Through the work of cleaning, synthesizing, and archiving data, new possibilities are created as certain types of data are made visible while others slip into the background. In presenting our findings back to the scientists, we take their perceived mundane everyday work and reveal it back to them to highlight opportunities for broadening participation and building opportunities for wider uses of data downstream. In principle, one goal of these salmon scientists is to make their data open to the public -through our exercise we sought to surface competing conceptions of 'the public' and the scientists' imagined uses of these data by that public. With an eye to what is absent from these discussions, this research sheds light on the daily environmental data practices and highlights the ways that scientific data are made to speak.

panel C16
Data worlds? Public imagination and public experimentation with data infrastructures