About the speaker

Dr. 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.

In front line communities across the United States, ambient air quality data is proliferating. Sustained activism, advances in sensor technology, and new regulatory initiatives have made continuous, real-time measurements of air pollutants increasingly accessible to communities concerned about their air quality. These new data, however, prove difficult for activists to translate into political change. Drawing on a long-term study of community-based air monitoring in refinery-adjacent communities in Northern California, I describe data-related dilemmas that activists must navigate in a data-rich environment—dilemmas of volume, of alignment, and of quantification—and how these shape their pursuit of environmental justice.