Just Good Enough Data: Figuring Data Citizenships through Air Pollution Sensing and Data Stories

January 18, 2017 by Jennifer Gabrys, Helen Pritchard, Benjamin Barratt

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Citizen sensing, or the use of low-cost and accessible digital technologies to monitor environments, has contributed to new types of environmental data and data practices. Through a discussion of participatory research into air pollution sensing with residents of northeastern Pennsylvania concerned about the effects of hydraulic fracturing, we examine how new technologies for generating environmental data also give rise to new problems for analysing and making sense of citizen-gathered data. After first outlining the citizen data practices we collaboratively developed with residents for monitoring air quality, we then describe the data stories that we created along with citizens as a method and technique for composing data. We further mobilise the concept of ‘just good enough data’ to discuss the ways in which citizen data gives rise to alternative ways of creating, valuing and interpreting datasets. We specifically consider how environmental data raises different concerns and possibilities in relation to Big Data, which can be distinct from security or social media studies. We then suggest ways in which citizen datasets could generate different practices and interpretive insights that go beyond the usual uses of environmental data for regulation, compliance and modelling to generate expanded data citizenships.