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From Network to Egg: The Extended Arrangements of Air Pollution Data

Fri, August 22, 8:30 to 10:30am, Intercontinental Hotel, Miró


Practices of monitoring and sensing environments have migrated to a number of everyday participatory projects, where users of smart phones and networked devices are able to engage with similar modes of environmental observation and data collection. Such “citizen sensing” projects intend to democratize the collection and use of environmental sensor data in order to facilitate expanded citizen engagement in environmental issues. But how effective are these practices of citizen sensing in not just providing “crowd-sourced” data sets, but also in giving rise to new modes of environmental awareness and practice? Through a discussion of two technologies that enable air pollution sensing, this presentation will address the topic of environmental data, including how it is generated, validated, mobilized and used as an attractor for different types of environmental practices and politics. The presentation will compare the London Air Quality Network, the official air monitoring network for assessing air quality across London, in relation to the Air Quality Egg, a DIY technology that in various ways is meant to complement or challenge official air quality readings. What do these different technologies put into motion in terms of evidencing air pollution, solidifying a trajectory from data to action, or otherwise organizing communities (of humans and nonhumans) in the project of sensing air and generating environmental data? How do the practices of making data complicate what counts as evidence? And in what ways might digital sensors for citizen-based engagement rework what counts as the “facts” of pollution? We will discuss the ways in which sensors, which are on the one hand advanced as technologies for democratizing science and technology, on the other hand can be quite unstable technologies that (depending upon use and application) may generate very different understandings of and engagements with environmental pollution, which are tied into extended arrangements of practices, politics, communities, materialities, capabilities and skills.