Mobility and Social Interaction to Promote Environmental Justice

The mobile application I am designing will be an application that is easily accessible, and completely mobile, all while promoting social interaction between individuals, completely free of geographical constraints. This application will be accessible through Android or Apple based devices and operating systems, and will be created in an attempt to connect like-minded across the country, and ultimately the world.  The issue my application is addressing is environmental injustice that mainly pertains to media representation, or lack thereof, of natural and man-made disasters. A social community of reporters and donators that are committed to the central cause of helping those who have been affected by natural or man-made disasters, will hopefully grow through temporality and increase the visibility of the application and the general knowledge of environmental injustice.

Often, I have found myself browsing the news section of an online forum called Reddit. While checking the site daily I began to see various instances of environmental-related stories reported on Reddit that had received a lot of attention on the website, but had not received much mention through mass media news outlets whether on TV or the web. It is said that “Three-quarters of Americans get news at least daily, including 6 out of 10 adults under age 30” (American Press Institute). So it is recognized that most Americans consume some sort of media daily, and thus it is crucial that issues important to the overall well-being of individuals of our country, are represented boldly, and through easily accessible means. I feel as though man-made and natural disasters are often not represented well enough, or accurately enough, through traditional media outlets and in realizing this, I gained the inspiration to create this application.

I am planning to create an application that will produce a social network of environmental reporters, content editors/updaters, and donators who seek to improve the well-being of those harmed by environmental disasters and mishaps. I am taking advantage of the massively powerful mobile platforms available and am adhering to the idea that in, “…Computer-mediated communication among people, geographical distance no longer remains a fundamental aspect of the interaction — the boundary between “here” and “there” dissolves” (Kakihara & Sorensen 2001). It is a mobile application, so geographical distance will be of no barrier in connecting those involved and facilitating communication between these parties. Through the application the user will be able to explore an interactive map that displays photos/facts/information about environmental disasters and mishaps, add updated information (will be reviewed before officially posted), donate to a charity that is directly associated with a particular cause, or upload a new disaster or mishap (will also be reviewed for accuracy before posting). Through these various actions the user’s reputation within the application will increase and a history of their contributions will be catalogued.

As the application grows, a catalogue of environmental disasters and mishaps will grow and hopefully become a comprehensive source to learn about, and directly contribute to various environmental injustice causes. This catalogue of incidents will be used as a form of “sousveillance”, which, “Involve(s) repurposing surveillance equipment to watch the watchers, whether by capturing video of police brutality at a Critical Mass event or tweeting about a protest march in Egypt” (Mann, Nolan, & Wellman 2003). Smartphones can undoubtedly be employed as surveillance equipment so I am merely designing an application that utilizes this powerful technology to help assist in “watching the watchers”. As stated by Lee Humphreys in Connecting, Coordinating, Cataloguing: Communicative Practices on Mobile Social Networks,  “Cataloguing provides a visualization of previous communication through the mobile social network often by aggregating communication”. The cataloguing of information within the application will help make environmental justice information more accessible to any who have the means to download and hopefully will follow the logic that, “Digital information is replicable, persistent, searchable, and scalable; it can be easily disseminated, copied, and accessed (boyd 2010).  Once the information regarding the environmental disasters/mishaps is legitimized, it will hopefully be replicated in other places as well, which only further increases the reach and social interaction regarding the surrounding issues.

Virtual space is endless, and has no boundary, and no longer do individuals have to occupy the same physical space to support a cause. As noted by Kakihara and Sorensen (2001), “As computers dematerialized the means of communication and interconnected millions of people, such a loosely connected network of computers brings forth a virtual spatiality — a “virtual community” or “cyber community”. My application seeks to capitalize on this idea of a “virtual community” by connecting individuals that are socially close, but perhaps physically distant. While discussing interpersonal communication on mobile social networks, Humphreys notes that, “Such interaction and connecting allows users to decrease and occasionally increase social distance between themselves and other users”. While using this application, individuals will have the right to “anonymize” themselves, and thus can decrease or increase the social distance between themselves an other users as they please, by actively engaging or disengaging. Through the catalogue of individuals’ contributions and donations, social interaction can certainly happen between like minded individuals and this can lead to the alteration of social distance in a positive manner.

In conclusion, the application I am designing will be easily accessible through smartphone devices, completely mobile, and will attempt to promote social interaction between like minded individuals. The application will catalogue all of the information that is generated along the way and will be an outlet for others to learn about, and contribute to, solving environmental injustices. Through my design I will create a new, interactive way to look at environmental disasters and mishaps and will hopefully spur temporal growth.


American Press Institute. “The Personal News Cycle: How Americans Choose to Get News.” American Press Institute RSS. 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

Boyd, Danah. (2010). “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications.” In A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites, ed. Zizi Papacharissi. New York: Routledge.

Humphreys, Lee. (2012). “Connecting, Coordinating, Cataloguing: Communicative Practices on Mobile Social Networks,” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56:4, 494-510

Kakihara, Masao & Sorensen, Carsten. (2001). Expanding the ‘Mobility’ Concept. SIGGROUP Bulletin, 22(3), 33-37.

Mann, Steve, Jason Nolan, and Barry Wellman. 2003. “Sousveillance: Inventing and Using Wearable Computing Devices for Data Collection in Surveillance Environments.” Surveillance and Society 1 (3): 331–355.

Marwick, Alice. (2012). “Public Domain: Surveillance in everyday life.” Surveillance & Society. 9(4): 378-393.


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