Laura Perovich Dissertation Defense

July 16, 2020
1:00pm — 3:00pm ET

Dissertation Title: Experiencing data together: combining art, technology, and community to move towards collective action on environmental challenges

Zoom link:  https://mit.zoom.us/j/98004875935 


The environmental risks our society faces are becoming increasingly urgent and may have devastating implications both locally and globally. Over the past 40 years, environmental efforts have built understanding and created some significant changes. Yet we have not taken enough action on many issues despite an abundance of data, policy proposals, and knowledge.

Many fields have explored environmental issues over the decades, including work in human computer interaction and art. My work responds to some of the successes and critiques of this research to investigate how and with whom we understand our local environmental problems. In particular, it explores collective environmental experiences around data through community-based research processes that use art and technology to move towards environmental action. I pursue a holistic approach that integrates emotional and embodied experiences of information and investigates opportunities for impact on water quality issues in New England.  

This dissertation includes three community-based environmental projects: (1) SeeBoat, a citizen science water quality tool for data collection and in situ display, (2) Data Lanterns, an open data physicalization of water quality in industrial rivers, (3) ArtBoat, an installation for artistic collaboration in public blue-green spaces. They are tied together through Participatory Self-Portrait, a gallery exhibition that creates a space for reflection and engagement around these projects. I evaluate these projects through qualitative methods in order to best capture the nuanced and emotional human experience of the events and the complexity of the systems that influence our environmental realities. 

Committee members: 

 Ethan Zuckerman
Associate Professor of the Practice
Director, Center for Civic Media
MIT Media Lab
Glorianna Davenport
Visiting Scientist, MIT Media Lab
President, Living Observatory, Inc.
Pattie Maes
Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
Director, Fluid Interfaces Group
MIT Media Lab

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