Laboratory-based research has often favoured the socially and economically powerful — that is, such research has failed to integrate the perspectives of underserved populations. Public Laboratory attempts to develop alternative processes for research and development around environmental justice and environmental health issues that enable lay practitioners to get involved in — and even direct — the questioning of ‘the state of things’.
Balloon mapping is one example of Public Laboratory’s open source approach to a “civic science”; using balloons and kites to launch cameras as “community satellites”, Public Laboratory mappers around the world engage in local-level, activist remote sensing — building upon the critical cartography and participatory mapping movements to investigate local environmental and social issues with inexpensive “Do-It-Yourself” technologies. This talk will address community participation models and the importance of high-level participation in avoiding the recent trend towards “crowdharvesting”. The Public Laboratory research community rejects a model of citizen science where participants are limited to categorizing data or logging observations. Through the process of first-hand data creation and analysis, community researchers can build expertise, critique existing data collection regimes, and reconfigure technoscientific processes to include substantive civic participation.
The creator of GrassrootsMapping.org and co-founder and Research Director for the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, Jeff designs mapping and civic science tools and professionally flies balloons and kites. Notable software he has created include the vector-mapping framework Cartagen and orthorectification tool MapKnitter. He is a fellow at MIT’s Center for Civic Media and an advocate of open source software, hardware, and data. He co-founded Vestal Design, a graphic/interaction design firm in 2004, and directed the Cut&Paste Labs project, a year-long series of workshops on open source tools and web design in 2006-7 with Lima designer Diego Rotalde. Jeff holds an MS from MIT and a BA in Architecture from Yale University, and spent much of that time working with artist/technologist Natalie Jeremijenko, building robotic dogs and stuff. To find out more, visit Unterbahn.com.