This paper investigates contemporary practices
associated with the 'citizen scientific' culture, and
how crowd-sourced user-generated data (may they
be qualitative or quantitative, a single piece or
aggregated information) collected and collated
through these practices shape today's data-
Contemporary 'big data' infrastructures are difficult
to study because the vastness of data generated,
processed and used by different means and from
different sources, blurs the boundaries between
individuals, groups, communities, organisations.
Whilst citizen scientific projects that solicit crowd-
sourced data and information are becoming popular,
how are these crowd-sourced data and information
being integrated into 'big data' infrastructures?
Aims and Objectives
To understand the shifting boundaries and
complexity in the networks of networks of actors
and objects, which are fluid and mobile, this paper
employs a framework that traces the 'social life of a
weather datum', from its advent, into different
contexts of re-use including the Met Office,
international climate science and weather
derivatives markets. Following the trajectory of the
weather datum allows the researchers to map the
colliding social worlds involved in the production,
consumption, distribution of big data.
Based on studies of the UK Met Office's WOW
project, and the Zooniverse's Old Weather Data
project, this project examines how 'citizen science'
projects in relation to weather data are done. We
are interested in how crowd-sourced weather data
and information are created, shared, tried,
governed, averaged, leveraged, integrated and re-
used in a big weather data infrastructure.
Based on narratives on the internet (found on
relevant mailing lists or online forums), published
articles in printed media or on the Internet, and
interviews with key stakeholders, the ethnographic
fieldwork will help unpack how weather is co-
predicted in a big data era.
We identify and visualise the trajectories a crowd-
sourced user-generated weather datum may travel
through infographics as shown below. In this tube-
map-like concept image, different stations indicate
different organisations or individuals who are
involved in data management or manipulation.
This map pictures key stakeholders in an
infrastructural context (Star 1999, 2002; Star and
Bowker 2010) where data (artefacts), services,
human knowledge and experiences, and actions are
aligned and assembled to shape scientific agenda
Each segment in our
map mirrors a socio-
found during a value-
creating or value-
translating process. We
found that some
concerns such as measurement, accuracy,
completeness, and abilities to prediction (in relation
to vastness, speed, immediacy) have been favoured
and prioritised during data collection, cleaning,
processing and analysis. These practices are socio-
technical afforded by the advancement and
popularisation of computing technologies.
This work is part of the UK AHRC-funded 'The Secret Life of a Weather
Datum' project. For more information see
Star, S. L. (1999). 'The Ethnography of Infrastructure'. American
Behavioral Scientist, 43(3): 377-391.
Star, S. L. (2002). "Infrastructure and ethnographic practice: Working
on the fringes,"Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems: Vol. 14:
Iss. 2, Article 6. http://aisel.aisnet.org/sjis/vol14/iss2/6
Star, S. L. and Bowker, G. C. (2010). 'How to infrastructure'. In L. A.
Lievrouw and S. Livingstone (eds). Handbook of New Media: Social
Shaping and Social Consequences of ICTs. Sage.
This is an in progress working document
of the interactive visualisation map