Making and taking data

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Thu, 03/11/2021 - 13:32

Presentation at the Data and Society research seminar series at Malmö University.


The contemporary discourse on data production and use has developed an intriguing tendency to conceptualise mobilities of data using processual and travelling metaphors as a continuum. Data and information are produced, managed, organised and preserved to be used. A closer look at what really happens when they are acted upon reveals often a very different view. The same applies to how these actions are described and documented to others. The continuum is not necessarily very solid and uninterrupted and its continuities might lie elsewhere than anticipated. As a consequence, even if it still would be relevant to discuss about, for instance, management, production and documentation of data, parallel framing of what happens when they are done can help to understand what it takes to make data move.
Drawing on earlier and on-going research on archaeologists' information work and the production and use of archaeological data, this presentation discusses how and in what sense to talk about the mobility of data and information in a context where the mobility unfolds as a long line of the 'makings' and 'taking's of data and information rather than a linear process. In parallel, the presentation asks what the different framings of the continuum imply for descriptions and documentation of these processes that have been found to be increasingly important constituents of successful data (re)use outside of its original context of origin.