We seek papers that examine the process by which a measurable quantity comes to be accepted as a legitimate indicator of environmental quality.
Efforts to manage human uses of the environment often depend on a society first reaching consensus on what to measure and then putting systems in place to monitor the desired indicators. Mature indicators often become tightly linked with relatively formal decision-making procedures and give rise to specialized instruments, methods, and networks. The quantity being measured and the scale at which measurement occurs varies widely, ranging from microscopic to global and from the chemical and physical to the biological and cultural. Examples include the concentration of chemicals in air or water, satellite-based geophysical measurements, noise levels, aquifer levels, risk indexes, the reaction of test organisms, and the ratio of paved to unpaved surfaces in urban areas.
In each case, what concerns gave rise to use of the new indicator? To what extent did the resulting system of measuring and monitoring depend on new technology and those who developed that technology? How was the adoption process for the measurement regime affected by institutional considerations within regulatory agencies, research laboratories, or activist organizations? In general, what insight does the case provide into ongoing efforts to select indicators and develop socio-technological systems that allow societies to monitor and manage environmental change?
Papers will be presented at a seminar conference held at the Hagley Museum and Library on July 18, 2003. One goal of this conference, sponsored by the Society for the History of Technology, is to encourage discussion among historians working at the intersection of technology and the environment. Graduate students are encouraged to participate, and travel expenses will be subsidized. Please send electronic copies of your paper proposal and a brief vita to Hugh Gorman and Erik Conway by Dec. 1, 2002.
Michigan Technological University
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