Synthetic Situations in the Internet of Things
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionIFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology 2016, 489:215-228 10.1007/978-3-319-49733-4_13
The proliferation of distributed digital technologies in contemporary enterprise challenges the understanding of situated action. This paper revisits this notion in the era of Big Data and the Internet of Things. Drawing upon longitudinal studies within the offshore oil and gas industry, we empirically expand upon Knorr Cetina’s “synthetic situation” to encompass data-intensive work where people are not co-located with the physical objects and phenomena around which work is organized. By highlighting the performative nature of synthetic situations in the Internet of Things – where phenomena are algorithmically en-acted through digital technologies – we elaborate upon the original formula-tion of synthetic situations by demonstrating that (i) algorithmic phenomena constitute the phenomena under inquiry, rather than standing in for physical referents; (ii) noise is irreducible in algorithmic phenomena; (iii) synthetic sit-uations are productive rather than reductive. Finally, we draw brief methodo-logical implications by proposing to focus on the material enactment of data in practice.