Standardized Data and Singular Situations

Standardized Data and Singular Situations

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This article discusses how standardized data sets like logs and seismics are used to make sense of the reservoir in specific situations. Focusing on a discussion about a fresh log and how to perforate a newly drilled well to get the best result, a theoretical discussion of the interplay of standardized data types and highly improvised interpretation is conducted.
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Today a key feature of every technological organization is the abundance and pivotal role of standardized data sets. This paper discusses the interplay between standardized semantic knowledge representations and situated work on a knowledge intensive workplace. Drawing upon anthropological fieldwork with geologists and engineers in the `subsurface' department of an oil company, this paper discusses how an oil reservoir is represented with standardized semantic entities, and how such representations are used when workers try to make sense of the reservoir. The terms decontextualization and recontextualization are used to address and highlight the work that is involved in transporting meaning out of and into different contexts. Examples are given on how the subsurface personnel try to make sense of the oil reservoir through data: creatively using data to explore, speculate and guess about the subsurface. Through these examples, the paper explores the integrated relationship between the minds trying to understand the reservoir and the symbolic tools they have available, outlining some of the experience-based embodied skills that are involved in this work. It is argued that a key skill in this workplace is handling the translations between the standardized and singular.

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