Fields: Communication, Ethnography

Collaborators: Brittany Fiore-Gartland (University of WA)  with Charlotte Cabasse-Mazel (UC Berkeley) and Laura Norén (NYU)


WRF Data Science Studio

Recent efforts to locate and legitimate data science in academia are changing the way universities and funders imagine the conditions of scientific knowledge production. Therefore, the creation of data science centers make visible imagined collaboration as a strategy for designing the physical and digital spatial conduits for the lived reality of data science work.

Our research explores how the imagined multiplex collaborative future for data science is materialized in the spaces and sites of data science, and thus entangled with a lived reality of data science practice. Ethnographic fieldwork forms the basis for grounded theory construction, and our framework examines the overlaps between imaginations of collaboration, design deployments in space and software, and the lived experience of doing data science work.

Our investigation is attentive to objects such as “water coolers”, “wormholes”, data repositories and white boards as well as the transformative impact of these scientific and spatial practices encouraged in this space. In particular, we will examine:

  •    The promotion of innovation through serendipitous encountering;
  •    The spatial impact of hacking, code pairing, data sharing, tool building;
  •    The expectation that sharing and transparency are beneficial;
  •    The power dynamics of visibility.


  • Cabasse-Mazel, Charlotte, Fiore-Gartland, Brittany, & Noren, Laura. Building data science: Translating imagined collaborations into place. Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), Denver, CO (2015).