I have just completed a book on data with Sabina Leonelli, and am developing a major research project focusing on infrastructures for sustainability with Selen Eren and Theunis Piersma and a large international consortium, and writing up an analysis of how knowledge of the SDGs is produced.

Acknowledgements: Research is an essentially social entreprise. Wonderful collaborators, co-authors, mentors and friends have contributed to the development of these activities in big and small ways. Support from many funding bodies is also gratefully acknowledged. Most photos on this site taken by Maarten Derksen.

Current Projects

Data and Society: A Critical Introduction (SAGE, 2021)

With Sabina Leonelli, Data and Society: A Critical Introduction provides analytical tools to understand the role of data in contemporary society and foster good data practices. It addresses the growing attention to the social embedding of data across different settings, from business to policy and government, from sports to health and climate change, and the challenges that such embedding brings both for the governance and regulation of data flows and for the technical management and use of data. It is an interdisciplinary  book that connects the phenomenon of datafication and related technologies to social, technological and economic change. Its conceptual framework relates ideas and principles with concrete cases, to help readers understand the growing importance of data in different spheres of knowledge production and its implications for a wide variety of sectors.

Data and Society Flyer

Knowledge Infrastructures for Sustainability

In this project, pursued with Selen Eren at Campus Fryslan and in collaboration with team Theunis Piersma of the University of Groningen, I examine how different actors use the interfaces to such infrastructures to know and intervene responsibly. Knowledge infrastructures are essential to how we define and establish urgency around issues like climate change or loss of biodiversity, and they are also key to monitoring our progress in addressing these issues.

At the heart of this research are questions about how values and practices are reinforced by current knowledge infrastructures, which adaptations are needed to develop more responsible and sustainable practices based on knowledge and how to make complex, multi-dimensional data tractable. The aim is better knowledge infrastructures, better in the sense that they bring issues of intention, responsibility and accountability to the forefront and that they garner sufficient trust and reliability to enable us to act.

In related projects with Clarisse Kraamwinkel and Ruth Howison, we are developing expertise on Responsible Knowledge Infrastructures for Climate Adaptation, focusing on climate resilience of soils in Friesland. Together with Taylor Craft and Ruth Howison, we are exploring  how to assess agricultural sustainability by integrating remote sensing and animal ecology with agricultural practices.

Organising Knowledge for Sustainable Futures

For Handbook for the Anthropology of Technology (in preparation, 2020), Brit Winthereik and Klaus Hoeyer Eds. Palgrave Handbooks. In this chapter, I analyse knowledge practices enacted around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to better understand how technologically mediated data practices have become central to formulating, addressing and monitoring progress on pressing global environmental problems and the alleviation of human hardship. This analysis contributes to explaining how the science-policy nexus around global issues SDGs is changing–shaping and being shaped by new data practices. The focus is on claims about what we know, need to know and don’t (yet) know in relation to the SDGs.  These claims shape the emerging agenda for infrastructures for knowledge production and give rise to novel data practices and new lines of accountability.

Big Data and changing epistemic assumptions

How much insight is added with increasing amounts of data? Does the augmented diversity of larger data sets hamper their scientific value? Is the relationship between ‘Big Data’ and ‘Big Insights’ appropriately understood, or even understandable? Finally, what are the consequences of aiming for greater collection and circulation for individual privacy and collective autonomy, property, responsibility, creativity and freedom? The answers to these questions might have huge implications for future research practices, both for data collection as well as data analysis, and the basis for trusting knowledge.

Together with Oskar Gstrein (CF), Ronald Stolk (UMCG) and Xiaoyao Han, PhD candidate, I expore epistemic issues around how we value big data. Marthe Stevens (EUR) and I are writing about epistemic responsibility in the use of machine learning, engaging with the work on care of Puig de la Bellacasa.

Current PhD Supervision

  • Promotor, Farzaneh Taskibi, PhD thesis Modelling atmospheric pollution and aerosol-cloud interactions, University of Groningen (submission 2025). Co-promotor Tabish Ansari
  • Co-promotor, Taylor Craft, PhD thesis Assessing agricultural sustainability by integrating remote sensing and animal ecology with agricultural practices, FSE, University of Groningen (submission 2025). Co-promotor: Ruth Howison, promotor: Theunis Piersma
  • Co-promotor, Xiaoyao Han, PhD thesis Valuing Big Data, Campus Fryslân, University of Groningen (submission 2024). Co-promotor: Oskar Gstrein, Promotor: Ronald Stolk
  • Promotor, Clarisse Kraamwinkel, PhD thesis Resilience of Frisian soils to droughts and salinization, Campus Fryslân, University of Groningen (submission 2024). Co-promotor: Ruth Howison, Co-promotor: Andrej Zwitter
  • Co-promotor, Selen Eren, PhD thesis Knowledge Infrastructure for Biodiversity, Campus Fryslân, University of Groningen (submission 2023) Promotor: Andrej Zwitter
  • Co-promotor, Dina Friis Toft, PhD thesis Theorising Ambiguity – Telling deliberately equivocal viral stories, Leiden University (submission 2021) Promotor: Paul Wouters

Past PhD Supervision

Supervision, completed

  • Co-promotor Esther van der Waal, PhD Thesis Socio-technical Innovations in Local Energy Initiatives, FSE, University of Groningen (26-03-21). Promotor: Rien Herber
  • Co-promotor, Sarah de Rijcke, PhD thesis, cum laude. Regarding the Brain, Department of Theory and History of Psychology, University of Groningen (15-09-09). Promotor: Prof. Douwe Draaisma

PhD committees and PhD examinations

  • Opponent, Veronica Johansson, PhD thesis, A time and place for everything: social visualisation tools and critical literacies, Swedish School of Library and Information Science, University of Borås (14 December 2012).
  • Opponent, Marisa Ponti, PhD thesis, The Influence of Socio-Technical Aspects on Practice-Research Collaboration and Implications for the Design of a Collaboratory School of Library and Information Science, Goteborg University (29 April 2010).
  • Opponent, Isabelle Dussauge, PhD thesis, Technomedical Visions: Magnetic Resonance Imaging in 1980s Sweden Division of History of Science and Technology, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm (4 April 2008).
  • Committee member, Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner, PhD thesis, Reflexive Inertia. Reinventing Scholarship Through Digital Practices, Leiden University (28 May 2015).
  • Committee member, Vanessa Dirksen, PhD thesis, Social Imaginaries of Technology and Work: A Connective Ethnography. Amsterdam Business School, University of Amsterdam (September 2007).

Past projects

  • DATA Theme: During the academic year 2017-2018, Energysense engaged in a collaborative project with the University of Lund on the theme “DATA: enabling us to better store, observe and understand what we measure”. As International Visiting Research Fellow at the Pufendorf Institute, I contributed to the DATA theme. Together with a number of colleagues from Lund and abroad, the theme harnessed a broad range of expertise in order to find solutions to challenges of data curation, visualisation, discovery and prediction, as well as reflect on cross-disciplinary collaboration, including reflexivity in data research, trust and reliability. In the course of the year, exchanges and visits between the participants will took place, culminating in a closing 3-day conference entitled “Opportunities and Challenges in the Future Use of Data”.. More details.
  • STS, University of Vienna: In March 2018, I joined the University of Vienna as a visiting professor, to contribute to the Master of Arts ‘Science – Technology – Society’. My contribution focused on the The Informational Turn in Energy and Sustainability.
  • Energysense, was a large-scale socio-technical infrastructure for energy data. Energysense served research, innovation and engagement purposes. I developed and lead the implementation of this flagship project at the Energy Academy Europe and the University of Groningen.
  • Picturing the Brain: Perspectives on Neuroimaging. PhD co-supervision, Rita Elmkvist Nilsen. Project description.
  • The ‘Neuro-turn’ in European Social Sciences and Humanities: Impacts of neurosciences on economics, marketing and philosophyNESSHI. NESSHI is an European ORA project.
  • Enhancing Scholarly Publishing in the Humanities and Social Sciences: Innovation through Hybrid Forms of Publication.
  • Virtual Knowledge. Edited collection. Paul Wouters, Anne Beaulieu, Andrea Scharnhorst and Sally Wyatt (eds), published  with MIT Press.
  • Network Realism: making knowledge from databases of images on the web. See project blog.
  • Alfalab: digital humanities and VREs at the KNAW. See project blog.
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