Transforming viscous data into liquid data : how does intermediating through platforms impact data?
This study examines how data platform intermediaries enable the evolution of viscous data into liquid data. Viscous data represents the many data usage problems that have plagued information systems since data was first used. Data may be viscous because of poor quality, lack of timeliness, size issues, unusable formats, missing metadata, poor access for users, and inability to move data between systems. Viscous data is problematic to use and difficult to incorporate into decision making. On the other hand, liquid data is easy to use. It is high quality, formatted to be machine-readable, has provenance and metadata, is easy to move in and out of different systems, is accessible by users, and lends itself well to becoming actionable information that can be used for decision making. Using a longitudinal case study that follows a data platform intermediary startup company from late 2015 to 2018, I break down elements of the platform into data users, data providers, and data intermediaries. Using a lens from the Community of Practice literature, I show how sociality is a key factor in transforming data from viscous to liquid which ultimately results in the democratization of data. The contribution of this work is a new aspect to data management; the incorporation of social features to address decades-old problems in data warehousing and analytics systems.