Visualizing Toxic Subjects

Alice Chen: Visualizing Lead Risk

This image is usefu as an ethnographic text in so far that the author does well in explicating the socially contingent impact of exposure to lead to particular communities. In addition, while the...Read more

Toxic Data Infrastructures

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Environmental Justice Nurses

Caption

This screenshot points to data resources that gathered on a short field research trip to St. Louis, which are both heavily impacted by industrial pollution. Granite City, just north of St. Louis, artist Chris Carl carried out gardening projects in the vicinity of his studio, including a “DIY remediation” of a lead contaminated site. The city was created for steel manufacturing and featured a lead smelting plant. The area also endures severe lead stress through paint dust emanating from deteriorating housing stock. Chris Carl gathered data resources and documentation about the site, which are not publically accessible or extensively usable. An aim of my project is to understand what kind of civic data infrastructure could help turn these data resources into more of a community resource, contributing to an environmental data commons.

Design Statement

This image collage is used to convey how a particular community of practice (public health nursing) has changed over time, partly through changes in supporting technologies.   It also conveys how progressive discourses can remain tethered to entrenched assumptions even when enabled by new technologies and visualization capabilities.

 

DIY Lead Remediation

Caption

This screenshot points to data resources that gathered on a short field research trip to St. Louis, which are both heavily impacted by industrial pollution. Granite City, just north of St. Louis, artist Chris Carl carried out gardening projects in the vicinity of his studio, including a “DIY remediation” of a lead contaminated site. The city was created for steel manufacturing and featured a lead smelting plant. The area also endures severe lead stress through paint dust emanating from deteriorating housing stock. Chris Carl gathered data resources and documentation about the site, which are not publically accessible or extensively usable. An aim of my project is to understand what kind of civic data infrastructure could help turn these data resources into more of a community resource, contributing to an environmental data commons.

Design Statement

This image works on at least two levels: it literally collects and displays field data points (examples of data resources that I learned about through field research), but also points to the aim of my overall project: to understand the gap between unavailable and needed environmental data resources to address complex environmental problems and “the Anthropocene.” In turn, the process of looking for existing data and visualizations turned into a way of doing ‘data ethnography’. At the same time, conceptualizing and ‘sketching’ what a potentially useful database could look within the Disaster STS Platform is a way of re-imagining the anthropologist’s role as designer, curator and collaborator in the field (Sánchez Criado and Estallela 2018). Using the screenshot as a visualization also raises the question of how online platforms can be included meaningfully in traditional scholarly forms (such as print or PDF articles, but also exhibitions).

Live soils: peasant stories of injustice and resistance by Maya Torres

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Chroma 1: Toxic soil due to indiscriminate use of agrotoxins in hard maize monoculture. Calvas, Ecuador by Maya Torres

Toxic agents scattered across our soils flow into water streams, air, food we consume, and the bodies of those who work the land. Global agricultural practices push farmers to forgo their soils’ long-term health in exchange for mass produced crops through the use of “modern” fertilizers and pesticides. As we now know, these chemicals often lead to serious diseases like cancer, disabilities and malformations. They also affect entire ecosystems resulting in pollinator decline and permanent soil erosion. In addition, they directly affect peasant families’ economies as expansion costs push them into ceaseless indebtedness and has even driven some of them to suicide.

The stories Maya presents here are part of a larger project that looks into farmers, particularly female farmers, and their ecological and restorative soil practices in southern Ecuador. These soils are seen as life-giving organisms and they are part of peri-urban agricultural practices to protect the land, its agrobiodiversity, its ecosystems, and the life of the people that inhabit and care for them. Furthermore, we argue that these are resistance practices to a predatory capitalist agri-food industry where women are at a particular disadvantage.

The stories revealed in these "living soils" are visualized through soil chromatography images of three different soils. This imaging technique have been collaboratively developed with the women who nurture and care for these lands in an attempt to open up a political discussion around our food choices. They graphically illustrate various stages of soil detoxification.

Chroma 2: Toxic soil due to agrotoxins in monoculture of hard maize. Pindal, Ecuador by Maya Torres

Toxic agents scattered across our soils flow into water streams, air, food we consume, and the bodies of those who work the land. Global agricultural practices push farmers to forgo their soils’ long-term health in exchange for mass produced crops through the use of “modern” fertilizers and pesticides. As we now know, these chemicals often lead to serious diseases like cancer, disabilities and malformations. They also affect entire ecosystems resulting in pollinator decline and permanent soil erosion. In addition, they directly affect peasant families’ economies as expansion costs push them into ceaseless indebtedness and has even driven some of them to suicide.

The stories Maya presents here are part of a larger project that looks into farmers, particularly female farmers, and their ecological and restorative soil practices in southern Ecuador. These soils are seen as life-giving organisms and they are part of peri-urban agricultural practices to protect the land, its agrobiodiversity, its ecosystems, and the life of the people that inhabit and care for them. Furthermore, we argue that these are resistance practices to a predatory capitalist agri-food industry where women are at a particular disadvantage.

The stories revealed in these "living soils" are visualized through soil chromatography images of three different soils. This imaging technique have been collaboratively developed with the women who nurture and care for these lands in an attempt to open up a political discussion around our food choices. They graphically illustrate various stages of soil detoxification.

Chroma 3: Live soil, use of ancestral and traditional techniques for fertilization, pasture cultivation. Nabón, Ecuador by Maya Torres

Toxic agents scattered across our soils flow into water streams, air, food we consume, and the bodies of those who work the land. Global agricultural practices push farmers to forgo their soils’ long-term health in exchange for mass produced crops through the use of “modern” fertilizers and pesticides. As we now know, these chemicals often lead to serious diseases like cancer, disabilities and malformations. They also affect entire ecosystems resulting in pollinator decline and permanent soil erosion. In addition, they directly affect peasant families’ economies as expansion costs push them into ceaseless indebtedness and has even driven some of them to suicide.

The stories Maya presents here are part of a larger project that looks into farmers, particularly female farmers, and their ecological and restorative soil practices in southern Ecuador. These soils are seen as life-giving organisms and they are part of peri-urban agricultural practices to protect the land, its agrobiodiversity, its ecosystems, and the life of the people that inhabit and care for them. Furthermore, we argue that these are resistance practices to a predatory capitalist agri-food industry where women are at a particular disadvantage.

The stories revealed in these "living soils" are visualized through soil chromatography images of three different soils. This imaging technique have been collaboratively developed with the women who nurture and care for these lands in an attempt to open up a political discussion around our food choices. They graphically illustrate various stages of soil detoxification.

 

Chae Yoo: Visualizing Lead Risk

This image communicates the 'potential' of lead poisoning. I appreciated this image as an ethnographic object because, as the author points out, it represents the gap between reality and public...Read more

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