Scientific Knowledge, Observational Data, and ‘Dead Heads’: A Comparative Exploration of Informational Flux in the Brazilian Amazon
Antonia Walford (University of Manchester / Open University)
Respondent: Jon Agar (University College London)
Drawing on fieldwork completed with an international Brazil-led scientific programme based in the Amazon, this paper looks at the elisions between the universal, nature, movement and knowledge in STS theorising about scientific practice and knowledge. It argues for more careful ethnographic attention to be paid to different sorts of scientific informational entities, as well as to the specificities of scientific understandings of the world. This means paying attention again to so-called universal nature. Taking the case of observational data, it demonstrates that the production of data through measurement is a process of discretizing the continuous, and the painstaking crafting of a certain relation to the unknown. This however is a precarious state of affairs, and the paper ends by suggesting that understanding the ways that scientific knowledge is opened to the unknown might be important for understanding how scientific knowledge and practices travel and relate to other forms of knowing and doing.
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