Max Liboiron


Max Liboiron is a postdoctoral fellow in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, where she is researching  scale and its relationship to environmental values and action. Her dissertation, Redefining Pollution: Plastics in the Wild, investigates scientific and advocate techniques to define plastic pollution given that plastics are challenging centuries-old concepts of pollution as well as norms of pollution control, environmental advocacy, and theories of contamination. Her work has been published in the Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest and in the Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage. She writes for the Discard Studies Blog and is a trash artist and activist.

At ISTC-S, after creating a catalogue of theories and methods of scale across a variety of disciplines such as ecology, biogeography, human geography, and computer sciece, Max Libiron will use Big Data ecology case studies to investigate howenvironmental values scale from measurements and samples, through giant databases, and into global predictive models.Ecological samples become homogenized data, which feed databases that underwrite computer models. Yet data is not "given" as small-scale, faithful representations of nature, but even data as seemingly mundane as measurements have social and political origins and ramifications. What is selected for measurement and what is not, how measurements are standardized, what counts as an important unit of measure, and how measurements are used all have stakes for the systems of which they are part. While new research about big data and data mining argue that industry-determined data are always already inflected with the values and goals of profit, Liboiron will look at how the same holds true for researcher-activists and scientist-environmentalists who gather samples for big data ecology. This is the first case study in a longer project on the relationship between scale, values, and action.