The focus of this manifesto is a group of overlapping communities sharing data about the natural environment, although its aims, workflows and technologies will be held in common with other kinds of inclusive data communities. Our communities comprise amateur and citizen scientists, professional naturalists, academics, students, teachers, policymakers, Indigenous peoples and other kinds of stakeholders.
We emphasise helping different communities working with data in formats they are comfortable with, with tools they are familiar with, even if these differ from professional norms in other communities. An example of this is the Maxwell Creek Watershed Project project undertaken with Transition Salt Spring which empowers naturalists with moderate technical skills to edit documents in simply structured R Markdown format, of which the web output emitted by the R HTMLWidgets system is then reknitted into an interactive scrollytelling interface. These documents are hosted in GitHub pages where any member may easily update and republish their documents without needing to consult a technician.
This reknitting approach is consonant with the notion of reknitting as promoted by Amy Twigger Holroyd and others, described in chapter 5 of her book Folk Fashion. In this approach, a "readymade" data pipeline, which meets many but not all of the needs of a community, is "unpicked" at the final stage, ready to be reknitted into a more interactive, domain-appropriate interface.
Other examples of working with vernacular technologies might involve fitting domain-specific interface extensions into widespread data tools such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, and maintaining ecologies of communities cooperating on the basis of these. Other data science communities will centre on scripts written in Python, hold their data in Jupyter notebooks, SQL databases or in centralised communities such as iNaturalist. In each case we try to exploit existing pathways for knitting together these communities as far as they can take us – perhaps needing to "unravel" or back up some pieces of surplus work that they do, in order to go the last mile to our communities.
Colin Clark and Ethan Winn have recently written on Mesh Cooperativism - Toward Mycorrhizal (Infra)structure for the Cooperative Movement (Slides), making an analogy between the interpenetrating structure of fungal filaments (Mycorrhiza) connecting communities in overlapping groups of a range of sizes, and the goals of a Mesh Cooperativism movement, seeking to empower emerging cooperative networks through a combination of shared infrastructure and interoperable practice.
An example of this is the Data Communities for Inclusion project described below. These structures are more widespread than are typically acknowledged in technical systems, which prefer to force data into centrally managed repositories such as GBIF and ontologies such as Darwin Core in order to smooth interoperability.
Entangled Artifacts: The Meeting Between a Volunteer-run Citizen Science Project and a Biodiversity Data Platform (Tchernavskij & Bødker, 2022) takes up this theme in the context of the ecology of artifacts and working practices centring on the interaction between iNaturalist, a large centralist platform, and Biodiversity Galiano, a volunteer-run citizen science initiative, and examines the design tensions which emerge around their patterns of employing common interactive objects towards sometimes conflicting goals. The authors appeal to the notion of artful integrations, due to Suchman (2002), to describe the contrivances that a, typically more peripheral, community puts together to deal with the artefacts produced by a more central community in order to put them to purposes which are locally useful.
Some technical aspects of ownable infrastructure are the focus of the Malleable Systems Collective, following the core principle that it should be as easy to change software as it is to use it.
Through collaboration with the Institute for Multidisciplinary Ecological Research in the Salish Sea, we have produced an ecocultural mapping pilot incorporating data from Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members on cultural values, written and spoken Hul'qumi'num names of regions and species, as well as ecological community boundaries exported from the QGIS geographic information system, fused together into a single interactive system. Xetthecum is a small area on the southwest coast of Galiano Island, also known as Retreat Cove. A YouTube video presented by Dana Ayotte of the Inclusive Design Research Centre has been published about the Ecocultural Mapping Tool and was presented at the April 2022 Indigeverse conference.
In this case, the reknitting workflow takes the form of hitching a ride on the qgis2web plugin of the popular open source QGIS geographical information system, which automates a great deal of the legwork of converting desktop-scale map data into formats and coordinate systems suitable to be displayed on the web. The plugin generates a basic Leaflet map application from which we discard most of the packaging, and reparse/reknit the core files into our interactive visualisation.