14. 6. 2021

Searching for ‘Hard Data’ paper at Re-opening the Bin Conference 2021

Our team presented a collaborative paper at Re-opening the Bin 2021 online conference, Gothenburg, 10-12 June 2021. The panel entitled Waste governance (I): Waste Regimes was organized by Patrik Zapata.

Searching for ‘Hard Data’: Crooked Ways of Waste Quantification

Daniel Sosna, Pavel Mašek, and Barbora Stehlíková

Quantification seems to represent a critical tool for understanding waste management and policy making. It is part of a larger project of modernity’s believe in the power of numbers and quantitative operations. Institutionalized statistical reasoning is essential for assigning various kinds of responsibilities including those associated with waste and its management. Waste, however, refuses to be conquered easily as Susan Strasser and Zsuzsa Gille demonstrated. We build upon our collaborative ethnographic research of what we call waste trajectories of cars, electronics, and municipal solid waste. Our engagement with the life on the ground has enabled us to encounter various tensions and frictions between the dynamics of waste trajectories and formal quantification of trends in waste management. Our critical interrogation examines the effects of classification, temporality, informality, and nature of quantification to erode the myth of ‘hard data’. Rather than trashing quantification per se, we strive to understand how numbers rise and spread their agentic potential across different scalar registers and regimes of value. Our approach puts emphasis on the importance of epistemic cautiousness, critical reflection, and capacity for interpretation to make use of any quantification for policy making. The doubt is presented as an essential tool not only for academic reasoning but also, more importantly, for responsible decision making in contemporary world.