Information Infrastructures for Environmental Justice
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Putting information in the hands of low-income and minority communities heavily burdened by environmental hazards has become a popular goal of grassroots, non-profit, and governmental initiatives alike. Theories of environmental justice suggest that to be truly empowering, information infrastructures must do more than provide data; they need to offer community groups resources for making meaning of the data, and facilitate use of the data in collective action. Existing, government-maintained platforms are limited in their ability to empower communities, but these limitations are being partially overcome by new platforms for data collection and reporting designed by researchers in collaboration with community groups. These participatory design projects both suggest how government data infrastructures should be redesigned to foster EJ, and reveal inherent challenges in making meaning of complex information that social justice advocates of all sorts will have to grapple with in the era of "big data".