As part of the Data Then and Now seminar series, Elena Aranova from UC Santa Barbara will be presenting a lecture called “Oceanic Datascapes: Data Diversity and Data Reduction during the International Geophysical Year and Beyond.” Please join us for Aranova’s lecture on April 8th, 2020 from 4:00-5:00 PM in the Seminar Room of the WRF Data Science Studio.
The International Geophysical Year (1957-8) is remembered as one of the twentieth century’s largest scientific international ventures, which played an important role in shaping oceanography into the discipline we know today. The IGY may serve as a reminder that a scientific way of knowing the ocean is not monolithic, involving the tools of different disciplines and heterogenous datascapes. In this talk I will examine the shift from very diverse data types and formats to a new standard in oceanography: the digital formats for data. The paper argues that the process of “data reduction” – a common term for transformation of the multitudinous variety of data types into a standardized, ordered and simplified digital format — ultimately ensured the success of the IGY. At the same time, it quite literally reduced the diversity of data and homogenized the datascape of oceanography. I will first discuss at the initial scope of the IGY data collection at the planning stage, I will then examine how the US and the Soviet plans and actual programs differed. I will also discuss where did the collected data go, and how non-geophysical data were circulated (or not), why, and how these decisions continue to influence the shape of oceanographic data archives today.
Elena Aranova is a historian of science working on the history of environmental and evolutionary sciences in the twentieth century. She is interested in the ways in which scientific practices are affected by, and contribute to, social and political order. She is published primarily on the history and politics of environmental data collection, the history of evolutionary biology, and historiography of science during the Cold War. Aranova is currently writing a book on the intriguing history of attempts to integrate scientific knowledge and new technologies — from plant genetics to computers — into historical research. Most recently, she has co-edited (with Christine von Oertzen and David Sepkoski) a forthcoming volume of Osiris, “Histories of Data” (2017). She received a Ph.D. in History and Science Studies at the University of California at San Diego in 2012, after earning a doctorate in Biology and History of Science from the Russian Academy of Science.
The Data Then and Now seminar series explores the social and organizational history of data and data practices in order to better understand the current data-intensive moment through its antecedents and continuities. It features invited speakers from across the country and around the world. For more information, visit the Data Then and Now web page.