Antonia Walford
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‘If everything is information’
Archives and collecting on the frontiers of data-driven science
in Ethnography for a data-saturated world
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This chapter investigates the intensification of data practices that has occurred over the last decades in the environmental sciences. Moving away from a critical focus on the commodification of the environment, the chapter examines how a recent international databasing initiative in Global Earth Observations can be understood through the critical analytic of the archive. However, a focus only on the archival logics of such infrastructural data practices risks losing sight of other important elements of emergent data-driven scientific landscapes. One such element is data collection. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with a large-scale Earth Systems project in the Brazilian Amazon, in comparison with a historical analysis of British colonial collections in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the chapter argues that paying attention to data collection as a process of both appropriation and transformation is crucial for understanding the relations that constitute contemporary scientific knowledge production.

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