Stephanie B. Steinhardt, Steven J. Jackson
Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences | Big Island, Hawaii | January 6-9, 2014
Programs of scientific research, like other formally organized collective practices, meet the materiality of the world in complex and dynamic ways. This intersection has important and underexplored consequences for the planning and practice of distributed scientific collaboration, including programs of large-scale infrastructure development currently underway across a range of scientific fields and national contexts. Building on ethnographic fieldwork around the Ocean Observatories Initiative, this paper advances two basic arguments about the relation between formal planning efforts and the material worlds they are meant to engage. First, we argue for the mutual plasticity and co-evolution of plans and the material world. Second, the mutually constitutive character of plans and the material world provides a critical connection between top-down governance over scientific collaborations and the bottom-up emergence that emanates from the material world, blurring notions of control and agency and capturing the complex relationship between science policy and local culture.