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Chapter 4 shows how self-registering instruments from 1900 to 1940 altered data relationships by restructuring notions of data as anonymous, autonomous, and pictorial for producing and consuming publics. Through a study of instruction manuals and government reports, the chapter reveals how the Weather Bureau and its personnel created data qualification schemes that positioned data between the poles of “clean” and “good,” “dirty” and “bad.” The chapter focuses on the Weather Bureau within the context of the rise of professional meteorology and pinpoints how discourses of clean/good and dirty/bad shaped data classification systems and environmental consciousness in general. The chapter concludes by investigating how data measurement and management regimes failed to render the escalating catastrophe of airborne dust and soil erosion during the Dust Bowl, and how the onset of dust challenged existing modes of data collection and expression.

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