Studying Emerging Data Practices: Creating a Cultural Biography of Objects Through Using the Web as an Ethnographic Resource


This case presents and discusses ethnography-inspired methods for studying emerging phenomena related to big data such as the practice of data center waste heat recycling. It suggests a twofold methodology that is based on treating the contemporary Web as a multi-modal resource for creating cultural, ethnographic-like accounts of emerging data-related practices, as well as on tracing online the cultural biographies of objects. The case suggests some ways in which the Web can be used as a resource to understand data-related practices as they develop and extend in the offline world, rather than as they unfold and modify online spheres of social and cultural activity. The present methodology can be regarded as appropriate to produce knowledge for the initial stages of a potentially larger research project.

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