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The Palgrave Handbook of the Anthropology of Technology
Springer Nature eBook
This chapter details the various techno-cultural assemblages giving rise to data collected to model and measure anthropogenic worlds, arguing that data-based technologies both represent and co-produce the Anthropocene. It begins with a review of scholarship emerging at the intersection of science and technology studies and information studies that advances understanding of data infrastructure and knowledge practices, and their role within the anthropogenic assemblages that shape history. Drawing on a case study describing how vehicle emissions are measured and regulated in the US, I examine the materialities and mutability of technologies designed to produce data about air quality, along with the cultures and politics that shape them. I detail how US environmental health researchers and regulators grapple with the meaning of evidence and the basis for regulatory decisions as they confront the limits of automated data-collecting and modelling technologies. Finally, I meditate on the role of data-based technologies in mediating the environments we inhabit and the knowledge through which we perceive them.