Technical data

Panel to spotlight data science and environmental activism

A public panel on climate justice and data – ranging from communities using inexpensive sensors for environmental monitoring to collaborative analysis of obscure government documents – will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, March 18 at G01 Gates Hall.

“Data into Action: Building Activist Data Enterprises for Sustainability,” a panel organized by researchers from Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science, is the first event of a weekend workshop that targets students from Cornell who are interested in environmental justice, activism, politics or corporate responsibility. The panel is open to the Cornell community. Workshops on Saturday, March 19 are for registered Cornell students only.

The panel will include representatives from three leading nonprofit organizations working to strengthen environmental responsibility through data collection and analysis:

  • Public Lab, a community nonprofit whose current research focuses on mine reclamation to support local organizers in West Virginia and others organizing against extractive land uses everywhere.
  • Littlesis, a surveillance network whose free database is used by journalists and activists to analyze the financial dealings and dealings of the world’s richest and most powerful people and corporations.
  • Environmental Data and Governance Initiative [EDGI]that documents and analyzes changes to online environmental data, information and global governance, and advocates for fairer and more effective policies and practices.

The weekend workshop is part of a research initiative led by Christopher Csíkszentmihályi, Steven Jackson and Phoebe Sengers, all associate professors in the Department of Information Studies. They are the investigators behind “Repair and Redress: Expanding the Repertoire of Community-led Climate Justice Practices,” a collaborative project bringing together representatives of communities facing sustainability challenges and nonprofit and peer organizers.

“Startups and entrepreneurship are often associated with private companies, but the planet also needs cutting-edge organizations that advance new technologies for the benefit of the public,” Csíkszentmihályi said. “This panel and workshop brings to Cornell some of the best grassroots groups that combine data science, activism, and climate justice with community-driven approaches. Their work is both practical and inspiring, and we hope the workshops will give undergraduates a real-world example of how to leverage technology for social good.

Students attending the Saturday workshop will learn about each of the three participating nonprofits and how they model social change enabled by technology. While some technical knowledge like coding and web scraping is beneficial, all Cornell students — anyone, any study — are welcome, he said.

Supported by the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability’s Academic Venture Fund and its Innovation for Impact Fund, Csíkszentmihályi and colleagues aim to create a multimedia user guide for community climate responsibility and a design specification toolkit for platforms. software forms to advance community-led climate justice.