Analysing the facticity of the GEUS article
We aim to investigate the kind of scientific vision of the Arctic that is being set forth (for the time being) in an excerpt from a GEUS article by analysing the literary inscriptions, by which facts become possible. In the excerpt, the introduction and the parts on the Faroe Islands are left out.
Bruno Latour's classificatory scheme
In his famous laboratory study, Bruno Latour develops a five-fold classificatory scheme in order to grasp the level of facticity of biological statements in textual documents. The question he asks is: how do literary inscriptions become persuasive? We adapt the same five-fold scheme when reading the part of the GEUS article referring to the Lomonosov ridge.
Type 5 Statements that correspond to taken-for-granted facts, which
requires no further explication.
Type 4 Statements in which relations appear uncontroversial but are
nevertheless made explicit.
Type 3 Statements about other statements. Often consists of a basic
assertion (type 4) coupled with a modality (time, reference to
an author etc.)
Type 2 Statements coupled with a modality (as type 3), but the modality
specifically draws attention to circumstances affecting the basic
relationship. Often attention is drawn to the generality of the
statement - or lack of the same.
Type 1 Speculative assertions.
South of Greenland
The language in which the South of Greenland is described, opens with an introduction dominated by type 3 statements. Note the following examples: "The Eiriks Ridge is assumed to be a natural prolongation...". "The existence of very thick sedimentary successions...may form the basis for a claim..." "There is a general consensus on a tectonic model with sea-floor spreading in the Labrador in Paleocene-Eocene time, possibly continuing into the Miocene." The basic assertions are coupled with epistemic modalities referring to the likeliness of the assertion. The persuasiveness of the descriptions are strengthened by reference to a figure, which acts as an independent confirmation, which gives an impression of objectivity. Also the way in which prior expert findings are corrected by the end of the paragraph, strengthens the trustworthiness of the document.
The type 5 statements that follow, document in a matter-of-factly way, what the geophysical program does and the amounts of data gathered.
In a type 4 statement, the seismic data are related in an apparent but uncontroversial way to the sedimentary nature and thickness.
The maps act as tidied representations of the literary inscription and are used in the texts to support various points. They constitute independent points of reference supporting the previously described results.
North-east of Greenland
The area north-east of Greenland is likewise described through type 3 statements coupled with a figure.
The facticity appears to slide from a type 3 statement to at type 2 statement. What sets out to be a "general consensus" on the opening history of the North Atlantic is problematized ("problems with details of the structural elements are apparent") and the strength of the assertion is weakened.
Drawing attention to the observation of a spreading pattern, the next statement appears as a type 4 statement in which the relation between the pattern and the observation appears obvious but is nevertheless made explicit.
The text proceeds by pointing out in a type 5 statement the difference in water depth and and subsurface structure north and south of the ridge. Here the relation between the observation and the observed is implicit.
The final sentence opens as a type 4 statement ("the velocity model shows standard oceanic crust to the south") but turns into a weaker type 3 ("the northern side of the ridge and the crust further north may be stretched continental crust").
North of Greenland
The Lomonosov Ridge is described in a type 3 assertion as an "assumed natural prolongation". In regard to making a Danish claim on the area, the sentence becomes a less qualified type 2 statement in which attention is drawn to a modality ("if relatively thick sedimentary successions can be demonstrated"...), which affects the possibility of a Danish claim, which itself is relatively uncertain ("...it may be possible to enlarge the potential area."). It is followed by the most speculative type 1 statement in the article, which casts doubt about the quality of the data ("the existing data coverage...is very sparse") on which the claim will be made. The text, however, persuasively states in a type 3 assertion that there is "general consensus on a tectonic model with active spreading...along the Gakkel Ridge...", but in regard to the Lomonosov Ridge the statement is a less factly type 2 statement ("the Lomonosov Ridge most likely consisting of continental crust..."). The paragraph is finished off by type 5 statements, in which the scope of future studies is determined.
The conclusion is held in a type 5 language, which requires no further explications. It is interesting how the conclusion draws attention to the unquestionable point that Denmark has "acquired new data in three out of five potential claim areas..." rather than summing up the character of the data obtained, which has appeared to be of fluctuating persuasiveness according to our language analysis. The article is terminated by a solidifying claim about future projects, the content of which is much less certain than the will to conduct them.