Digitisation and the extraction of data are assembling a powerful imaginary around the nature of data as the only workable form capable of telling what matters. This panel examines "data worldings" and the kinds of meetings that data and "the digital" hope to facilitate and strive to curtail.
Collections of records, specimens, and artifacts continue to be digitised at unprecedented rates. Concurrently, extraction and oftentimes sly elicitation of "data" by devices and novel socio-technical arrangements is justified by and in turn generates imperatives concerning the absolute value and necessity of (ever more and better) "data". Having worked in the context of the biological and ecological sciences, we observe that "nature" and its attendant configurations like biodiversity, ecology or species increasingly become apprehended exclusively through "data", whether genetic, environmental, or financial. These projects are assembling a powerful imaginary around the nature of data, particularly concerning their supposedly infinite relationalities.
STS has crafted critical handles for grappling with data and data infrastructures, examining standardisation and commensuration of very different things and the persistence of what Richards calls "the fictive thought of imperial control" in the pursuit of positive and comprehensive data for all and everything. What is particularly interesting about data practices is how they enact tensions between holism and partiality, composition and decomposition, collectivity and individuation, connection and separation. While nurturing aspirations of universalism and omniscience, they also trouble divisions between data and object/specimen, information and flesh, insides and outsides.
In this panel we are interested in examining the kinds of meetings that data and "the digital" hope to facilitate and strive to curtail. When data become the only universal, acceptable and workable form capable of telling what matters, what is the scope and efficacy of assembly? Who can come together and how? What can congregate and where?