About ArcticInfo

“Information systems for the Arctic Ocean: drivers, architecture, and effects on marine economic activities” (ArcticInfo) is a research project (2016-2018) financed by the Fram Centre, based in Tromsø, Norway. It is a collaborative effort that aims to analyze the development of information systems in the Arctic and how these affect economic activities.

Partners

UiT – the Arctic University of Norway: Maaike Knol, Peter Arbo

Wageningen University: Machiel Lamers

Norwegian Polar Institute: Stein Tronstad, Sebastian Gerland, Olga Pavlova

Norwegian Meteorological Institute: Anders Doksæter Sivle

Background

Large investments are currently made to improve mapping, monitoring, observing and surveying capabilities in the Arctic Ocean. These new technological infrastructures widen the range of available information about weather and sea-ice conditions in the Arctic. This provides a basis for the growth of informed economic activities, thus stretching the boundaries of the accessible Arctic. The information systems thereby seem to play a double role. While making the Arctic more controllable and predictable, they also enlarge the potential risks and hazards associated with increasing activity.

Objectives

The main objective of this project is to analyze the development of weather and sea ice information systems in the Arctic and how they affect economic decision-making. The project has the following sub-objectives, which are linked to three thematic work packages.

  1. To investigate the development of Arctic information systems as socio-technical infrastructures;
  2. To understand the complexities and challenges in the user-producer interface in Arctic information systems;
  3. To explore how Arctic information systems affect economic decision-making and alters the Arctic as a zone of risk.

Organization of the project

Work package 1 aims to provide insight into the development and dynamics of information systems for the Arctic marine areas, with a particular focus on providers of information about sea ice and weather conditions. Traditionally, information about sea ice and weather conditions is provided by the national sea ice and meteorological services. More recently, the community of Arctic information providers has become more heterogeneous with the establishment of numerous collaborative platforms. We approach Arctic information systems as infrastructures. Like infrastructures in the conventional sense, these are large-scale installations that facilitate movement and exchange, enabling other activities or services. They extend across time and space and have a networked structure. Through qualitative methods, this work package will provide insight into what these infrastructures around Arctic information provisioning look like. Three case studies enhance understanding of current developments (BarentsWatch, Polar View and Arctic Web). We analyse their organization and funding structures, the types of services they develop, and their target groups. Based on these cases, we discuss the drivers behind and dynamics of weather and sea ice information infrastructures for the Arctic marine areas. We also map relevant partnerships and types of collaboration that enable the development of Arctic information systems. This WP will lay the basis for more in-depth analyses in WP2 and WP3.

Work package 2 aims to better understand the complexities and challenges in the user-producer interface in Arctic information systems. It studies how information on sea-ice and weather conditions in the Arctic is made available and transferable, and which services are offered to users. What are the decisive factors for user-friendliness, taking into account that there is a large variety of users with varying demands and purposes of information use? It is acknowledged that there is a big challenge to connect with users. How are users involved in the development of information systems, and how can their involvement possibly be enhanced in order to develop more salient information services? This WP thus problematizes and discusses the terms “user” and “producer” and explores the extent to which these dualist notions reflect reality. What feedback mechanisms are built into Arctic information systems, in order to allow for responsiveness between users and producers of information? Do users also produce information? Are they capable to more efficiently co-produce information than the formal information infrastructures allow for today?

Work package 3 aims to explore how Arctic information systems affect economic decision-making and the Arctic as a zone of risk. It studies the use of information and the effects on economic decision-making within the shipping and fisheries sectors. We will use knowledge and data from ongoing projects within the Fram Centre, as well as our own networks and existing contacts to study – primarily through semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions – how and which Arctic information systems are used, and how this information affects economic decision-making. An important task is to identify and assess relevant decision-making practices. A distinction will be made between planning practices (e.g. where to go, when, how), operational practices, and emergency practices (responding to changing circumstances). The project team has good connections to relevant business associations and governmental agencies at a national and European level, and these contacts will serve as stepping stones for building new connections to operating companies. Some users can also be identified through the information providers. We want to learn more about not only the use of information sources and systems, but about how the actors envision the opportunities and risks associated with Arctic operations and what kind of information is needed for future safe and responsible operations. In this context, differences between the sectors are important to explore.

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