October 1, 2019

Amber Geurts, Aalto University

From margins to mainstream: Big data, AI and the future of materials science

Data-driven materials research as an emerging field of science and business

In today’s society, technological developments are introduced at an increasingly high pace.
In this paper, we look at the future of emerging technologies as a sociological phenomenon in its own right by interrogating the ascendancy of and changes in the expectations and discourses that make certain technological futures more likely than others.

We conduct our study in the emerging field of data-driven materials science, wherein digitalization, big data and artificial intelligence (AI) have enabled a scientific paradigm change. What sets our study apart is its real-time, ongoing focus, exploring an emerging field of science and business still in development.

We base our study on a combination of archival data, interview data and ethnographic research conducted in key scientific dry-labs worldwide (US, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, and Denmark). The unprecedented opportunities to advance the materials frontier stimulates attention to boundary work in these scientific settings, making them particularly interesting to study how actors engage in efforts to negotiate community boundaries and membership under radical technological change.

By doing so we address how emerging technologies of our digital age influence knowledge work and professional roles and boundaries in one specific setting (dry labs) and how members of these dry labs make sense of the changing organizational settings and (re-) negotiate socialization processes to create meanings and field boundaries.

 

 

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