Citizens of Worlds

Open-Air Toolkits for Environmental Struggle

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Jennifer Gabrys

Environments are increasingly sites of pollution, extraction, disaster, and development. Citizens of Worlds examines how citizen-sensing technologies and practices observe, evidence, and act on environmental disturbance. By focusing especially on how people use sensors and sensing technologies to monitor air quality, this book asks who or what constitutes a “citizen” in citizen sensing. How do digital sensing technologies enable or constrain environmental citizenship?

Taking the form of a how-to guide, Citizens of Worlds documents projects from the Citizen Sense research group, which built digital sensor toolkits for documenting and analyzing air pollution. This practice-based study describes collaborations with people to monitor air pollution from fracking infrastructure, document traffic emissions, and create air quality gardens. In the process of installing sensing technologies, this study considers the aspirations, collaborations, troubleshooting, disappointments, and political change that are forged in specific sensing projects.

As these projects show, how people work with, respond to, care for, shape, fight for, and transform environments informs the political subjects and collectives that they become. Citizens and worlds materialize through attempts to sense and struggle toward more breathable conditions.

Background photo by Dominik Dancs on Unsplash. Dustbox illustration by Sarah Garcin, courtesy of Citizen Sense.

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    The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) / ERC Grant Agreement n. 313347, “Citizen Sensing and Environmental Practice: Assessing Participatory Engagements with Environments through Sensor Technologies.”

    Portions of chapter 2 are adapted from “Citizen Sensing, Air Pollution, and Fracking: From ‘Caring about Your Air’ to Speculative Practices of Evidencing Harm,” Sociological Review monograph series 65, no. 2 (2017): 179–92; doi: 10.1177/0081176917710421, originally published by SAGE. Portions of chapter 3 are adapted from “Data Citizens: How to Reinvent Rights,” in Data Politics: Worlds, Subjects, Rights, edited by Didier Bigo, Engin Isin, and Evelyn Ruppert (Routledge Studies in International Political Sociology, 2019), 248–66. Portions of chapter 4 are adapted from “Sensing Lichens: From Ecological Microcosms to Environmental Subjects,” Third Text 32, no. 2 (2018): 350–67; doi: 10.1080/09528822.2018.1483884. Portions of chapter 4 are adapted from “Phyto-Sensor Toolkit: Cultivating the Swamps of Urban Air,” in Swamps and the New Imagination, edited by Nomeda Urbonas, Gediminas Urbonas, and Kristupas Sabolius (London: Sternberg Press, 2022).

    Copyright 2022 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota
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    University of Minnesota Press
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    Minneapolis, MN
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    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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    Regents of the University of Minnesota
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