Southbridge Weekend 2017!

Join us July 14th-16th for this year’s Southbridge Weekend!  A totally free “carnival-like” atmosphere, the Southbridge Weekend has food, games, entertainment, lots of useful information for the community, book bag giveaways, and more!  We’ll also be doing some research on local community issues on Saturday the 15th, so come out and help promote Unity in the Community!

Throwback: Honors Intro to Sociology Students Use PolicyMap!

The ability to document social issues using cutting-edge software is a recent component of my Honors Introduction to Sociology course.  In the spring 2017 semester, students worked in teams to examine a social issue of their choice geo-spatially, with PolicyMap, which is very user-friendly software with real data that is accessible to any student.  By employing Durkheim’s concept of the “social fact” and other sociological lenses, students were able to identify and explain a variety of social issues using maps!  Here’s an example!


Throwback: Fads and Fashions Honors Section Makes a Documentary!

In the fall 2015 semester, the Honors add-on section of my Fads and Fashions class made a documentary about fads on campus!  Utilizing quantitative surveys, in-depth interviews, and video footage around campus, the three-person team did an amazing job of gathering social science data and presenting it to their peers in an innovative format: the research documentary!  Here’s a brief clip of the full project!

Honors Fads and Fashions Makes a Documentary

Honors Introduction to Sociology, Globalization, and Upcycling!

As part of their enrichment experience this semester, Honors Introduction to Sociology students entered into a raffle to win three pairs of “upcycled” jeans made by And Again!  Their jeans were all made from used pairs and are unique, tailor made to order by Morgan Young and Greg Harder, owner/operators of And Again.  The jeans reflect students’ effort to “de-fetishize the commodity” and intervene in the global impact of new and used fast fashion.  Thanks also to Greg and Morgan for their informative lecture that connected their work to our book Clothing Poverty, by Andrew Brooks.  Read this brief piece from Honors student Victoria Dellacava on the exciting activity!

Environment and Health Creates a Blog!

In the fall 2016 semester, students in SOCI 335 Environment and Health were required to create their own blog.  Each student’s blog contained websites that provide the public with an online, geo-spatial mapping
tool for visualizing environmental burdens. The sites they selected were diverse, and all allowed users to map environmental burdens and hazards of some sort (e.g., brownfields, hazardous waste sites, flood zones, etc.), across a wide geographic area.  Additionally, the students created a map using each site, showcasing the capabilities of each one.  Each student presented their blog to the rest of the class and described its use, data, intended audience, and its role in citizen-science social movements.  A few examples from the class are below!

Alanna’s work on Chester, PA:

“The official site of Chester County, PA, has included the data in an interactive map. When the website first loads, you have many tabs to explore through, including Resources In The Area, Watersheds, Impaired Waters, Protected Water Uses, FEMA Flood Plains, Soil, and How You Can Help…Once you click on the Impaired Waters tab, you can then look at different areas of Chester County, where the website has color-coded the different rivers that are in the county. The red water sources represent at least one impairment listed in the water in 2014, and blue representing the water sources that do actually meet the water quality standards.”

Katy’s work on Brooklyn, NY:

“The last map I found was the Neighbors Allied for Good Growth’s mapping initiative for the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg (Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, 2015) . The map is very easy to use but uses geographic terms such as layers and basemap, allowing for you to manipulate it to see other environmental risks and demographics of the area. It maps spills, remediated sites, routes for trucks, flood risk, and trash sites. In the about the data section, it gives more information on what each layer means, how and who calculates it, and what implications it has for health, pollution, and noise. The site is overall a very powerful exploratory tool, and I imagine it can be used by people across all different education levels. The map data is sourced from OpenStreetMap and has many contributors for the data, manipulation, and research.”

Lauren’s work on Ocean City, MD:

“Another great tool for involved and curious community members is the Surging Seas Risk Finder found on the Climate Central Organization ’s website. This site is multifaceted in that it offers several different visuals displaying the areas and people most at risk for flooding. Also, the site does a nice job getting its audience just concerned enough to take action, but not over worried about their town being flooded. I feel that the intended audience is people in their mid 20s to late 50s because it is simple enough for most people interested in sea level rise to do general research. The site provides a background of why sea level rise is occurring and puts it  into perspective for the selected town, in my case Ocean City. There is a color-coded map of Ocean City available that shows the low to high sea-level rise vulnerability, a bar graph showing the multi-year risk of flooding over five feet from now to 2100, another bar graph showing the increase in coastal flood days from 1955-2014, and a map displaying how many total residents of the town(s) of and surrounding Ocean City are safe by using “ below 5ft ” as a parameter (2). For instance, as of 2010 the total 4,035 people of Ocean City are below the 5 feet although other maps may vary slightly in data (2). As I said, this site does a good job calling people to action to  advocate for practice to delay climate change without scaring them in the process.”

On the “Limitations of Measurement”

In environmental (in)justice communities, a major obstacle is the disparity between what scientific measurement can assess and the community’s embodied experiences with environmental burdens (see Brown and colleagues’ work on this for decades).  Additionally, the use of thresholds, geographically static measures of exposure and environmental pollution, and selective point assessments create what I call the “limitations of measurement.”  A sociologically and environmentally powerful citizen-science tool to address the “limitations of measurement” is the wearable Airbeam, which measures pollution and makes powerful visual displays of what people in a polluted community are literally breathing in.