Assignment #3: Create an Environmental Mashup

Broadly defined, a mashup juxtaposes two types of online information in an unexpected or powerful way. IDEALLY, one source of data should be things you sense yourself. The result might provide new functional capabilities or new information. As discussed in your readings, this term is most often used to describe the juxtaposition of online data and functionality. Interesting examples can be found at the Mashup Awards site. 

In the case of environmental data, there is a lot of uncertainty around the best way to convey information about impact to people. This uncertainty is present throughout all aspects of what we teach. For example, how to best convey the impact of climate change as a whole (is climate change the right term? how about climate crisis? Do we talk about polar bears? melting ice? How do people interpret the temperature changes quoted? etc.). How about the water bottle paper assigned -- how does one effectively convey the impact of a single bottle, and its indirect vs direct impacts? What does lbs of CO2 or BTUs mean? What does it mean to have soil with 1000 parts per million lead in it? How about other pollutants? 

One popular approach to making it easier to understand these numbers and ideas is to use metaphor -- number of cars off the road, number of dollars saved (instead of Co2), number of earths needed to carry the current human population without running out of resources, and so on and so forth. In a sense, these are mashups -- taking one form of information and presenting it in a different, more understandable context.

Your assignment is to select a real world or online context and use it to illustrate or explore an environmental idea, environmental data, or something else related to the topic of the class. A very simple example is the map showing the location of StepGreen users. Equally valid would be an installation showing the true volume of trash associated with the items in one recycling bin (considering the packaging, chemicals used in production, and so on). A simple sensor could track the number of hours the lights are on in a room and use StepGreen's API to report on light-related actions. Some examples from 2011: (1) Oil Spills (2) toxic20 (3) Smoking Tweets (4) Co2 Watchers  

If you have questions about what ideas are reasonable, just contact the course staff. As usual, you are to observe how people react to it. Depending on whats appropriate, you might watch what people do in response to it or show it to a particular audience.

For this project, you should:
  • Step one: By 4/2 send a brief proposal for what you will do (< 1 page). Be prepared to discuss this in class on 4/5
  • Step two: Create your mashup. 
  • Step three: Show it to at least three people and talk to them about it
  • Step four: your presentation for the critique on 4/19
    • General overview of what you did
      • Be sure to talk about what things you juxtaposed and why.
      • Be sure to talk about how the readings influenced your design
      • Be sure  how people responded to it
      • Walk us through your process
      • Anything else you think is really important
  • By 2/28 Post to the class blog with a brief writeup including at least one image of what you did, and references to specific assigned readings from the lectures given so far in class that support the choices you made. Your writeup should mention:
    • What you did and what you learned from it?
    • Why do you think it worked or did not work?
    • What other approaches did you consider? If you had other ideas, this is your chance to explain it.
    • What would you do differently the next time?
  • Each individual in the project should fill out a brief survey I will provide. This is your opportunity to let me know if there were any difficulties in group interactions.