Habits, Neuroses, Talents (https://stsinfrastructures.org/content/sketch-1-habits-neuroses-talents/essay)

Enter a comma separated list of user names.
Jacqueline (Jackie) Ashkin's picture
August 12, 2020
deutero [reflective/learning capacity]: How are people and organizations denoting and worrying about the phenomena you study?
 At this stage of research, unclear. There seem to be some tensions that arise at the science-policy interface, where distinctions between what is the coast, the sea, and the ocean have consequences for what research is prioritized/funded (I might take funding allocation as an indication of what people and organizations are worrying about)
meta [dominant discourses]: What discourses constitute and circulate around the phenomena you study? Where are there discursive risks and gaps?
Gaps dominate. Discourse focuses on unknowns and how little we actually know about the ocean. This claim frames most discussions in ocean science - "we just don't know".
macro [law, political economy]: What laws and economies undergird and shape the power of the phenomena you study?
Contemporary European science policy determines the realm of scientific possibility in many ways for ocean science since it is an expensive pursuit. Marine research institutes are often at the mercy of national funding policies and politicians who demand quick returns on their investments. In practical terms, jurisdictions rarely seem to pose an issue and permission to access particular waters for scientific purposes is generally granted.
meso [organizations]: What organizations are implicated in the phenomena you study? What geopolitics are in play?
A combination of (inter)national funding bodies (e.g. ERC, NERC in the UK, NWO in the Netherlands), policy IGOs (e.g. IUCN, IPCC, ICES, IOC), and marine research institutions (e.g. SAMS in the UK, NIOZ in the Netherlands, IEO in Spain). For northern European countries, the North Sea and its role in extractive industries/renewable energy, as well as the looming threat of rising sea levels, seem to influence the types of scientific knowledge they are interested in.
bio [bodies]: What are the bodily effects of the phenomena you study?
Most bodies affected are non-human, especially those bodies which are used as indicators for the relative health of an ecosystem, e.g. clams and mussels. Scientists’ interactions with the ocean and its contents are always mediated during fieldwork.  
micro [practices]: What (labor, reproductive, communicative) practices constitute and are animated by the phenomena you study?
nano [language, subjectivity]: What kinds of subjects are produced by and imbricated in the phenomena you study?
Societally-relevant scientists; excellent scientists; a healthy ocean; a dying ocean
edxo [education and expertise]: What modes of expertise and education are imbricated in the phenomena you study?
 "Scientific". Most human actors involved are expected to have PhDs.
data [data infrastructure]: What data, infrastructure, analytic and visualization capabilities account for and animate the phenomena you study?
 At the moment this is a focal point for my research - so I don't know the whole answer yet. There are already countless "basic" data infrastructures: practically, such as with GPS and weather forecasts, historically, such as previous studies of the ocean, and analytically, such as the use of particular models and graphic outputs. 
techno [roads, transport]: What technical conditions produce and delimit the phenomena you study?
Boats! Boats are critical to both the possibilities and limitations of ocean science work. Without boats, there would be no studies of the ocean. But boats are more than technical objects - they are also mediators with limited capacities. E.g., if you are a scientist who studies glacial dynamics in the arctic, you also need (to find) access to an icebreaker that can get you there in the first place.
There are no roads in the ocean, so moving through ocean space relies more on a combination of knowledge infrastructures and good luck - there is little to be done if the ocean does not provide optimum conditions, meaning that "ideal" expeditions almost never happen and compromises to types and locations of data are necessarily made on-the-go.
eco-atmo [ecology, climate]: What ecological and climatic conditions situate the phenomena you study?
Ocean scientists are intricately tied to the eco-atmo, both physically and intellectually.  The physical aspect of this scale blends with that above - ecologies and climates fundamentally influence what is physically possible during fieldwork, e.g. where moorings can be dropped or collected, where a species is found or is not. On a more intellectual level, their work is fundamentally about observing and understand ecologies and climates. The importance of climate change to current science policy agendas could also influence how the ocean becomes an empirical object of study.  
geo [earth systems]: What geological formations, contaminations, resources and scarcities ground the phenomena
ocean as system vs. ecology/climate? this distinction seems like a gray area and/or a point of contestation to me - it is one or the other, and also both, depending on who is speaking. Contaminations make me think of nanoplastics, oil spills, etc., but these are not what I think this question is talking about?
Creative Commons Licence