Environmental Sensing and Control

Authored by: Richard Beckwith , ken anderson

The Routledge Companion to Digital Ethnography

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138940918
eBook ISBN: 9781315673974
Adobe ISBN: 9781317377788


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In the US, a community deployed air quality monitors in multiple locations across their neighborhood to collect data on industrial air pollution. These data could be used, for example, by asthma sufferers to avoid the areas with the worst pollution. Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet in Australia, farmers and fishers were gathering data to support their crops, cows, and oyster beds. All of these people, like many others, are working toward improving their lives or livelihoods with data. Yet, the impact of data goes well beyond improving health or supporting commerce. Considering this data collection to be environmental monitoring and nothing more would be easy but it would also be incomplete. To understand the role of these data and monitors in society, we must focus more keenly on the uses to which monitoring data are put. In doing so, we must also consider the impacts of these data on others. What we have seen in our fieldwork is that data were collected to influence policy, establish accountability, and exercise power.

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