Domesticating data: Traveling and value-making in the data economy

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Data are versatile objects that can travel across contexts. While data’s travels have been widely discussed, little attention has been paid to the sites from where and to which data flow. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork in two connected data-intensive laboratories and the concept of domestication, we explore what it takes to bring data ‘home’ into the laboratory. As data come and dwell in the home, they are made to follow rituals, and as a result, data are reshaped and form ties with the laboratory and its practitioners. We identify four main ways of domesticating data. First, through storytelling about the data’s origins, data practitioners draw the boundaries of their laboratory. Second, through standardization, staff transform samples into digital data that can travel well while ruling what data can be let into the home. Third, through formatting, data practitioners become familiar with their data and at the same time imprint the data, thus making them belong to their home. Finally, through cultivation, staff turn data into a resource for knowledge production. Through the lens of domestication, we see the data economy as a collection of homes connected by flows, and it is because data are tamed and attached to homes that they become valuable knowledge tools. Such domestication practices also have broad implications for staff, who in the process of ‘homing’ data, come to belong to the laboratory. To conclude, we reflect on what these domestication processes—which silence unusual behaviours in the data—mean for the knowledge produced in data-intensive research.
TidsskriftSocial Studies of Science
Udgave nummer3
Antal sider22
StatusUdgivet - 2024

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