Making an Issue out of a Standard
The article focuses on stories and storytelling practices as explanatory resources in standardization processes. It draws upon an ethnographic study of the development of a technical standard for data sharing in an ecological research community, where participants struggle to articulate the difficulties encountered in implementing the standard. Building from C. Wright Mills’ classic distinction between private troubles and public issues, the authors follow the development of a story as it comes to assist in transforming individual troubles in standard implementation into an institutional issue for the ecological scientific community. The authors present the “hands-on” social science collaboration in this study as an example of a mechanism for supporting institutionalization of issues. Finally, the authors argue that narratives can serve as effective organizing principles within institutional settings, thereby providing an approach to understand the practical, substantive difficulties that occur in work with data in the sciences.