"From Sensing to Sense-Making: Dilemmas of Data in Citizen Science" - Gwen Ottinger

Event Date

SS&H 1246

"From Sensing to Sense-Making: Dilemmas of Data in Citizen Science"

Gwen Ottinger, Drexel University

Wednesday April 4th, 12:00-1:30
STS/CSIS Conference Room (SSH 1246)
Light lunch will be served; please RSVP.

Abstract: Advances in low-cost air sensors appear to be a boon for communities concerned about air quality.  But their real value depends on citizen scientists’ ability to interpret and mobilize the data they produce. Departing from many innovators’ and scholars’ focus on sensing technology, I examine the interpretive work that goes into making air quality data meaningful in communities overburdened by pollution. Environmental justice activists, I show, face two contradictory challenges: inventing new modes of interpretation that better represent local experience, and aligning their data with potential political leverage points, often structured by technocratic frames. To be most useful for grassroots groups, citizen sensing programs should be designed with both goals in mind.
Gwen Ottinger is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Drexel University, where she directs the Fair Tech Collective, a research group dedicated to using social science theory and methods to inform the development of technology that fosters environmental justice.  She is author of Refining Expertise: How Responsible Engineers Subvert Environmental Justice Challenges, which was awarded the 2015 Rachel Carson Prize by the Society for Social Studies of Science.

Presented by the UC Davis Program in Science and Technology Studies, the School of Education, and the Center for Community and Citizen Science.