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Archives of a Future Commons:
Seeds and/as Data
Kate Hertweck | Chan Zuckerberg Initiative | k8hertweck@gmail.com
Tom Hertweck |University of Massachusetts Dartmouth | thertweck@umassd.edu
Interrogative Abstract: To what ends can more equitable methodologies be utilized by governmental and
public interests to undermine increasing privatization of biotic data? How can FAIR-use redirect attention,
resources, and cultural capital to those marginalized peoples from whom this data has historically been
stolen? How might different disciplines--including literary folk--address these thorny problems?
-1-
Seeds as data
Seeds are a representation of a plant
species from a specific location at a
snapshot in time
Metadata about seeds (plants) ranges
from cultural to scientific
Seeds can be grown and used to derive
additional knowledge (and even evolve in
the future)
Relevant FAIR Principles
for Seed Banks
F2. Data are described with rich
metadata (defined by R1 below)
R1.2. (Meta)data are associated
with detailed provenance
R1.3. (Meta)data meet domain-
relevant community standards
Archives of a Future Commons (cont.)
-2-
Sources and Further Reading
Branch, Michael P. "The V.E.C.T.O.R.L.O.S.S. Project"
Isotope 5.2 (2007)
FAIR Principles, www.go-fair.org
Wisdom-Dawson, Evan. "Seeds of the Apocalypse"
(forthcoming)
This presentation's resources for yet more:
https:/
/bit.ly/HertweckHertweckASLE2023
Seedbank, R.C. Johnson, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
Types of data, João Batista Neto, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia
Commons
FAIR data, SangyaPundir, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Seed banks as a commons, K. Hertweck
Google place review, screencapped by
https:/
/lovelydysfunction.wordpress.com/
Variety of plant seeds, Alexander Klepnev, CC BY 4.0, via
Wikimedia Commons
Illustration Credits
Disciplinary commitments
Establishing relation to data corpora--
logistically simple, but often abstract
Increasing contact with the cultural data
interfaces across university curricula
Creative works' bridging a/effects
(Meta)Data and the Interdisciplinary
Humanities Classroom
Teachable Text: Michael P. Branch
"The V.E.C.T.O.R.L.O.S.S. Project"
Satirical speculative creative nonfiction
essay about a massive open-source
experiential data-collection project
Kinship with online review (1999), but
antedates Google Reviews (2007)
Fixing hyperspecific personal meaning to
equally specific places using GIS and self-
selected submisson of narrative data
"vernacular witnessing"
Jargon of the technocratic pitch emerging
out of the spirituality of place-making
Thematic Threads for Course Integration
Rhetorical qualities of vernacular witnessing (F2)
Rhetorical situation of vernacular witnessing
Material realities of massive data collection
projects: funding, longevity, access
Limits to corpus inclusion: how democratic? how
utilitarian? whose cultural priorities? (R1.2/3)
Meta-metadata and the comments-section
problem of cultural data corpora (R1.3)
The overwhelming affect of the very idea of
cultural data and its ceaseless production
Archives of a Future Commons:
Seeds and/as Data
Tom Hertweck
Kate Hertweck
ASLE 2023
https://bit.ly/HertweckHertweckASLE2023
Variety of plant seeds, Alexander Klepnev, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Mango plant, Photo by おにぎり on Unsplash
Seedbank, R. C. Johnson, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
Entrance to the Seed Vault, Subiet, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
Seed banks as a commons
Scientific
knowledge about
ecology,
evolution,
physiology, etc
Historical and
ancestral
knowledge about
plant
characteristics
and uses
Future
opportunities for
exploration,
experimentation,
and use
Seeds as a food, cultural symbol, component of ecological networks, living
organism, snapshot representation of species in time
FAIR data, SangyaPundir, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Types of data, João Batista Neto, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Questions to consider - The science perspective
● To what extent should we consider the physical common-pool resource of seed
banks separately from the knowledge commons associated with seeds?
● How can we incorporate historical, ancestral, and regional knowledge into the
existing highly-structured body of contemporary scientific knowledge?
● How do the multiple uses and ways of viewing seeds in particular complicate (or
simplify) our attempts to characterize them?
See my talk Wednesday at 8:30 for more technical information on working with
such data!
Selected resources
Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Seed Portal
GO FAIR
Ajates, R., 2022. From land enclosures to lab enclosures: digital sequence information, cultivated
biodiversity and the movement for open source seed systems. The Journal of Peasant Studies, pp.1-29.
https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2022.2121648
Sievers-Glotzbach, S., Euler, J., Frison, C., Gmeiner, N., Kliem, L., Mazé, A. and Tschersich, J., 2021. Beyond the
material: Knowledge aspects in seed commoning. Agriculture and Human Values, 38, pp.509-524.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-020-10167-w
Sievers-Glotzbach, S., Tschersich, J., Gmeiner, N., Kliem, L. and Ficiciyan, A., 2020. Diverse seeds–shared
practices: Conceptualizing seed commons. International Journal of the Commons, 14(1).
https://doi.org/10.5334/ijc.1043
Abstract
The developing archives of biotic data collected by governments, scientists, and industry pose a complicated problem for those
interested in just and sustainable futures. True, such resources produce knowledge-sharing and results in solving problems
related to issues like global climate change, among others. However, seed-saving archives and the corpora of data housed
within—severed from cultural knowledge that explicates uses and forms of kinship—often bypass serious ethical questions
surrounding the origin, care, and deeper value of plant life in deference to market rationalities or “doomsday.” This new phase
of human-plant relations, exemplified by blunted instrumentalist impulses, develops gaps out of which new forms of
engagement that scholars in the humanities and sciences, working together as in the case of the authors, might exploit to
interrupt thoughtless (or, worse, overtly hostile or antidemocratic) isolation of archives.
One gap seems immediately worthy of discussion: large-scale seed archives (like the famed Svalbard Global Seed Vault) are too
often assembled with no cultural information whatsoever—even, startlingly, instructions for cultivation—and little regard for
the peoples who had cared for such organisms for millennia. Merging literary-archival approaches to narrativized data
collection with open-source application of FAIR Guiding Principles for data stewardship, the authors advocate emphasis on
rich and identifiable metadata (FAIR principles F2 and F3) in order to increase inclusivity and ethical acknowledgment of the
people and cultures essential to the seed archives of the future, a lesson in mindfulness that data comes from somewhere and
is produced (in this case nurtured) by actually-existing peoples. Two key questions guide: to what ends can more equitable
methodologies be utilized by governmental and public interests to undermine increasing privatization of biotic data? And, how
can FAIR-use redirect attention, resources, and cultural capital to those marginalized peoples from whom this data has
historically been stolen?

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Archives of a Future Commons: Seeds and/as Data

  • 1. Archives of a Future Commons: Seeds and/as Data Kate Hertweck | Chan Zuckerberg Initiative | k8hertweck@gmail.com Tom Hertweck |University of Massachusetts Dartmouth | thertweck@umassd.edu Interrogative Abstract: To what ends can more equitable methodologies be utilized by governmental and public interests to undermine increasing privatization of biotic data? How can FAIR-use redirect attention, resources, and cultural capital to those marginalized peoples from whom this data has historically been stolen? How might different disciplines--including literary folk--address these thorny problems? -1- Seeds as data Seeds are a representation of a plant species from a specific location at a snapshot in time Metadata about seeds (plants) ranges from cultural to scientific Seeds can be grown and used to derive additional knowledge (and even evolve in the future) Relevant FAIR Principles for Seed Banks F2. Data are described with rich metadata (defined by R1 below) R1.2. (Meta)data are associated with detailed provenance R1.3. (Meta)data meet domain- relevant community standards
  • 2. Archives of a Future Commons (cont.) -2- Sources and Further Reading Branch, Michael P. "The V.E.C.T.O.R.L.O.S.S. Project" Isotope 5.2 (2007) FAIR Principles, www.go-fair.org Wisdom-Dawson, Evan. "Seeds of the Apocalypse" (forthcoming) This presentation's resources for yet more: https:/ /bit.ly/HertweckHertweckASLE2023 Seedbank, R.C. Johnson, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons Types of data, João Batista Neto, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons FAIR data, SangyaPundir, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons Seed banks as a commons, K. Hertweck Google place review, screencapped by https:/ /lovelydysfunction.wordpress.com/ Variety of plant seeds, Alexander Klepnev, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons Illustration Credits Disciplinary commitments Establishing relation to data corpora-- logistically simple, but often abstract Increasing contact with the cultural data interfaces across university curricula Creative works' bridging a/effects (Meta)Data and the Interdisciplinary Humanities Classroom Teachable Text: Michael P. Branch "The V.E.C.T.O.R.L.O.S.S. Project" Satirical speculative creative nonfiction essay about a massive open-source experiential data-collection project Kinship with online review (1999), but antedates Google Reviews (2007) Fixing hyperspecific personal meaning to equally specific places using GIS and self- selected submisson of narrative data "vernacular witnessing" Jargon of the technocratic pitch emerging out of the spirituality of place-making Thematic Threads for Course Integration Rhetorical qualities of vernacular witnessing (F2) Rhetorical situation of vernacular witnessing Material realities of massive data collection projects: funding, longevity, access Limits to corpus inclusion: how democratic? how utilitarian? whose cultural priorities? (R1.2/3) Meta-metadata and the comments-section problem of cultural data corpora (R1.3) The overwhelming affect of the very idea of cultural data and its ceaseless production
  • 3. Archives of a Future Commons: Seeds and/as Data Tom Hertweck Kate Hertweck ASLE 2023 https://bit.ly/HertweckHertweckASLE2023
  • 4. Variety of plant seeds, Alexander Klepnev, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • 5. Mango plant, Photo by おにぎり on Unsplash
  • 6. Seedbank, R. C. Johnson, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
  • 7. Entrance to the Seed Vault, Subiet, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
  • 8. Seed banks as a commons Scientific knowledge about ecology, evolution, physiology, etc Historical and ancestral knowledge about plant characteristics and uses Future opportunities for exploration, experimentation, and use Seeds as a food, cultural symbol, component of ecological networks, living organism, snapshot representation of species in time
  • 9. FAIR data, SangyaPundir, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • 10. Types of data, João Batista Neto, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • 11. Questions to consider - The science perspective ● To what extent should we consider the physical common-pool resource of seed banks separately from the knowledge commons associated with seeds? ● How can we incorporate historical, ancestral, and regional knowledge into the existing highly-structured body of contemporary scientific knowledge? ● How do the multiple uses and ways of viewing seeds in particular complicate (or simplify) our attempts to characterize them? See my talk Wednesday at 8:30 for more technical information on working with such data!
  • 12. Selected resources Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Seed Portal GO FAIR Ajates, R., 2022. From land enclosures to lab enclosures: digital sequence information, cultivated biodiversity and the movement for open source seed systems. The Journal of Peasant Studies, pp.1-29. https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2022.2121648 Sievers-Glotzbach, S., Euler, J., Frison, C., Gmeiner, N., Kliem, L., Mazé, A. and Tschersich, J., 2021. Beyond the material: Knowledge aspects in seed commoning. Agriculture and Human Values, 38, pp.509-524. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-020-10167-w Sievers-Glotzbach, S., Tschersich, J., Gmeiner, N., Kliem, L. and Ficiciyan, A., 2020. Diverse seeds–shared practices: Conceptualizing seed commons. International Journal of the Commons, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.5334/ijc.1043
  • 13. Abstract The developing archives of biotic data collected by governments, scientists, and industry pose a complicated problem for those interested in just and sustainable futures. True, such resources produce knowledge-sharing and results in solving problems related to issues like global climate change, among others. However, seed-saving archives and the corpora of data housed within—severed from cultural knowledge that explicates uses and forms of kinship—often bypass serious ethical questions surrounding the origin, care, and deeper value of plant life in deference to market rationalities or “doomsday.” This new phase of human-plant relations, exemplified by blunted instrumentalist impulses, develops gaps out of which new forms of engagement that scholars in the humanities and sciences, working together as in the case of the authors, might exploit to interrupt thoughtless (or, worse, overtly hostile or antidemocratic) isolation of archives. One gap seems immediately worthy of discussion: large-scale seed archives (like the famed Svalbard Global Seed Vault) are too often assembled with no cultural information whatsoever—even, startlingly, instructions for cultivation—and little regard for the peoples who had cared for such organisms for millennia. Merging literary-archival approaches to narrativized data collection with open-source application of FAIR Guiding Principles for data stewardship, the authors advocate emphasis on rich and identifiable metadata (FAIR principles F2 and F3) in order to increase inclusivity and ethical acknowledgment of the people and cultures essential to the seed archives of the future, a lesson in mindfulness that data comes from somewhere and is produced (in this case nurtured) by actually-existing peoples. Two key questions guide: to what ends can more equitable methodologies be utilized by governmental and public interests to undermine increasing privatization of biotic data? And, how can FAIR-use redirect attention, resources, and cultural capital to those marginalized peoples from whom this data has historically been stolen?