Can You Make Benzene Measurements Tell a Story About Justice?
Metrics are numbers that tell a big story in an easy-to-understand way. They also direct our attention to what's important. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) tells us how big a nation's economy is, but the Human Development Index (HDI) tells us whether its inhabitants have the capacity to thrive. Environmental metrics like the Air Quality Index (AQI) can tell us whether it's safe to work outside today, but so far we have few metrics that tell the story of how people of color are more impacted by poor air quality. The AQI tells us how to make individual choices to protect our individual health. What kind of metric could tell us how to take collective action to dismantle structural environmental racism? In Data4EJ, student teams will create a new metric that tells the story of environmental justice, using air quality data from vulnerable communities. They'll then propose policies and actions that can be taken to improve U.S. performance on the new metric.
The winning team’s metric will be shared throughout Drexel information channels, including at our campus locations and through digital dissemination. They will also be presented to environmental justice activists for their feedback, and considered for incorporation into EJ activism.
Participants will register as individuals, and the competition organizers will assign each participant to a team. We will accept all participants who register by the deadline.
Thursday, September 22, 6- 8 p.m., location TBD
Led by Gwen Ottinger, Ph.D.
Featuring community activists from around the U.S.
What’s it like to breathe oil refinery emissions? How well do environmental regulations protect communities on refinery fencelines? Why is knowing what’s in the air so important for residents? The case competition will open with first-hand accounts of the environmental injustices experienced by fenceline communities, and the work they’ve done to protect their environment and health from air pollution. Competition participants will be presented with their challenge: to use quantitative data to amplify these community stories and help provoke policy change. Organizers will offer an overview of available data sources, including their history and limitations. Community panelists and organizers will be available to answer questions.
About the Presenters
Gwen Ottinger is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Drexel University. They direct the Fair Tech Collective, a research group that uses social science to promote justice in science and technology. Since 2001, Ottinger has studied EJ activists’ efforts to expand air monitoring at refinery fencelines and the consequences of fenceline monitoring regulations for environmental justice. They are the author of Refining Expertise: How Responsible Engineers Subvert Environmental Justice Challenges and co-creator of airwatchbayarea.org and thebenzenereport.org, websites that expand public access to fenceline monitoring data.
EJ Community panelists to be announced.
Friday, September 23, 6 – 8 p.m., location TBD
Led by Lindsay Poirier, PhD
Metrics help us make sense of the world around us and can be powerful tools for making claims regarding social and environmental injustices. However, when designing metrics, the stories that ultimately get told can vary considerably depending on what data sources we choose to engage, how we choose to categorize information, what standards we compare data against, and how we communicate uncertainty. As data wranglers and storytellers, we have a responsibility to consider the ways our measurements both produce and delimit insight. In this workshop, we will examine what metrics are and what kind of work they do in the world. We will learn how to track down relevant public data sources and integrate them in ways that meaningfully mobilize measurements. We will also consider some of the ethical pitfalls to metrification and how we might navigate them responsibly.
About the Presenters
Lindsay Poirier, Assistant Professor of Statistics and Data Sciences at Smith College, is a cultural anthropologist of data advocacy, governance and infrastructure. Interlacing methods in cultural analysis and exploratory data analysis, Poirier critically examines how meaning gets made from data—by whom, for whom, under what conditions and toward what ends. Her work is informed by prior work in critical data studies, information studies, the digital humanities and data science. In her current research, she studies the provenance, form, semiotics and uptake of public interest datasets documenting social and environmental injustices in the United States. This work underscores the sociopolitical contexts shaping how knowledge claims about contemporary issues are produced from data, and informs critical approaches to data science practice, policy and pedagogy.
On Saturday September 24, teams will attend a group work session from 10a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This will be an opportunity for teams to finish the development of their metric and to get guidance and ask questions of experts. Lunch will be provided. At 3:30, teams will submit their metrics to the judges panel and three winning metrics will be announced at 4 p.m.