Environmental Data Comedy Workshop

Data Literacy, Data Visualization

I ran an Environmental Data Comedy workshop for undergraduate students in Gigi Gatewood’s “Methods & Mysteries: The Science of Art” class at Middlebury College.

First, we talked about DIY water science, the complexity of measuring water quality and conductivity as a kind of early warning indicator of water system health. This is based on work I’ve been doing with the Open Water Project led by Don Blair and Public Lab. The students then worked in groups to build Coquís which are easy, DIY circuits for measuring water conductivity: 

Everyone got their Coqui up and running in less than 30 minutes. Each student had brought in water samples from around the college ranging from dirty snow to tap water to hot tea water from the cafeteria to lake water. We discussed why tap water might have higher conductivity than bottled water, why water with dirt might have lower conductivity than clear lake water, and why super murky, salty water needs a higher capacitor in order to get the Coquí to make any sound at all.

Then, we shifted gears into exploring Environmental Data Comedy. Each group had laser cut a box and their charge was to turn their box into a “talking creature” of some kind and to use a bluetooth speaker to have the creature speak jokes about water quality and weather. In about 1/2 hour the students came up with some great characters and concepts. A nervously talking rock. A creepy guy indiscriminately hitting on the listener. A mutated frog. A Gilly-like Middlebury student. An insulting dweeb throwing out “yo water” jokes. Here are some of the videos:

Check out the full workshop research report on PublicLab.org.