Today, open data refer to both an injunction for the provision of data from the public and private sectors and a process of publishing of such data via special catalogs and portals. Promotional discourses present open data as a guarantor of transparency, a source of innovation and a new modality of value creation. If data is usually seen as a result of measurement or calculation, it is also a material for treatments, according to the various stages, which require heterogeneous skills. So it is important to understand how open data are collected, analyzed and interpreted and what related challenges emerge for various professional fields involved in its processing.
Mainly based upon the ANR-project OpenSensingCity 14-CE24-0029 (École des Mines de Saint-Étienne – EA 4147 Elico – Antidot – Hikob), conducted in France from 2014 to 2018, this paper provides a focus on the work of professional re-users. Who are these re-users? In what way do they define themselves and describe their professional practices? What are their socio-technical frameworks for open data reuse? How do they organize their activities in order to transform data into information?
The field survey has two components: 1/ an analysis of the discourses related to the professional practices of re-users (corporate web sites, manuals, guides); 2 / an analysis of the actors' discourses based on semi-structured interviews (n=30) of about one hour, conducted with the French developers, data scientists and data journalists, from February to June 2017.
The survey identifies the data processing chains specific to each professional category of re-users and the range of professional tools and solutions used. Despite the specificity of every professional field, we argue the convergence of actors around data mediation and their specific place in the social division of labor. In fact, developers, data scientists and data journalists are all looking for creating value from open data by making them readable and understandable for users, businesses, customers and citizens.
By mapping out the path from original open dataset to end-use, certain trends become visible, raising questions about new forms and conditions of the work in our “performative societies marked by the fusion of capitalism and informatics” (Carmes, Noyer, 2014). Next to the unified form of work imposed by industrial capitalism, open data reuse offers the opportunities for the work based on large centralize systems and proprietary solutions which can be used in the workplace as well as at home as well as on digital culture deeply marked by utopias of hackers: sharing, open access, free software and collaborative networks (Flichy, 2017). At the same time, the digital tools and technologies facilitate the standardization of tasks and the segmentation of work between conception and execution (Brown, Lauder, Ashton, 2010). If corporate discourses of most organizations involved into open data reuse put forward creativity and innovation as specific to their professional fields, there is a real risk that the knowledge required by such jobs is incorporated into the software packages, the procedures and prescriptions that will transform the intellectual work into the routine.