Scientific infrastructure design: Information environments and knowledge provinces



Conceptual models and design processes shape the practice of information infrastructure building in the sciences. We consider two distinct perspectives: (i) a cyber view of disintermediation where information technology enables data flow from the ‘field’ and on to the digital doorstep of the general end-user, and (ii) an intermediated view with bidirectional communications where local participants act as mediators within an information environment. Drawing from the literatures of information systems and science studies, we argue that differences in conceptual models have critical implications for users and their working environments. While the cyber view is receiving a lot of attention in current scientific efforts, highlighting the multiplicity of knowledge provinces with their respective worldviews opens up understandings of sociotechnical design processes and of knowledge work. The concept of a range of knowledge provinces enables description of dynamic configurations with shifting boundaries and supports planning for a diversity of arrangements across the digital landscape.