October 4, 2021
Speaker: Prof. Xan Chacko, Lecturer, STS, Brown
Title: From Data to Value in the "Empty Fields" of Seed Banking
Abstract: Within my larger project on the history and practices of seed banking for conservation and food security, this paper focuses attention on the role that data play in understanding and maintaining collections of living things. With clashing systems of classification, I show the archival strategies used to sort and store meta information about the plants. I ask, How do varying forms of relating to data prioritize plants, traits, and genes differently? Moreover, I dwell on the tenuous relationship between the physical objects that are stored in the banks and the data about them that are stored on servers. The complex systems that structure the data around banked seeds affect the security of the collection and the usefulness of the collection in the future. I am inspired to think with Marianna Hovhannisyan's ('22-'23 Pembroke Postdoctoral Fellow) conceptual framing of 'empty fields' in the context of museum collections as a productive way to think through the elisions of knowledge produced by the datafication of seeds in the vault.