Social and environmental justice activists are increasingly asking how technology can help them achieve their goals, and a growing number of engineers, computer scientists, and other technical experts are eager to help. But successful collaborations depend in no small part on taken-for-granted infrastructural elements, including an installed base of technology and the institutional apparatus of salaried positions. Greater attention to developing the infrastructures that enable engineers to collaborate effectively with activists is necessary to help ensure that social justice movements benefit from advances in technology.
Gwen Ottinger is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Drexel University, where she directs the Fair Tech Collective, a research group dedicated to using social science theory and methods to inform the development of technology that fosters environmental justice. She is author of Refining Expertise: How Responsible Engineers Subvert Environmental Justice Challenges, which was awarded the 2015 Rachel Carson Prize by the Society for Social Studies of Science, and recipient of a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation.