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Public Lab Holds Barn Raising at DeFelice Marine Center

Public Lab Holds Barn Raising at DeFelice Marine Center

November 26, 2012

Kites provided the aerial perspective for photos like the one of the DeFelice Marine Center above.

Over the weekend of November 2-4, the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (Public Lab) held its second annual barn raising at the LUMCON DeFelice Marine Center in Cocodrie.  The concept of the organization focuses on science and technology by holding a barn raising. This may sound strange, but they borrowed the term to signify the collaborative spirit that is at the core of the gatherings. Rather than come together as a community to raise a structure (as in a traditional barn raising), the Public Lab community comes together to collaboratively discuss, build and create Public Lab: the organizational infrastructure, the tools, the processes and methods that are important to the Public Lab approach to civic science.

In October 2011, Public Lab held their first barn raising in Asheville, NC, focused on developing the near-infrared camera and testing out aerial-mapping techniques. Public Lab started as a large collaborative project on the Gulf Coast when locals and others from across the U.S. came together to collect aerial imagery, support local mappers with supplies  and create public domain maps available to those working on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Thus, for the 2012 barn raising they decided to return to coastal Louisiana to bring the community together.

Dan Beavers and Cindy Regalado working on building a kite

Participants at the barn raising included Gulf Coast locals and representatives of several organizations: Gulf Restoration Network, Groundwork New Orleans and Social Agency Lab, as well as 20 or so people from across the globe who brought various interests and skills to the event. Cindy Regalado from University College London's Extreme Citizen Science program led a session on the ethics of practice in citizen science; Scott Eustis of Gulf Restoration Network discussed photogrametry techniques for aerial mapping in wetlands; Chris Fastie and Pat Coyle tried out aerial-mapping techniques that they've been working to refine; Don Blair co-led a session on designing future directions for Public Lab air-monitoring tools such as the indoor air toxic mapping and Hydrogen Sulfide sensing.

There were also sessions on map stitching, spectrometry, and collaborative decision-making sessions, such as formulating and writing a vision statement, discussing the potential for Public Lab charters and chapters, and integrating barn stars into the Public Lab rhetoric to acknowledge contributions that community members make. Sessions that lasted well into the nighttime hours, such as kite building and flame spectroscopy, also provided a chance to get people who normally interact via the Internet together in a face-to-face context helpful for creating, sharing and enacting ideas on the spot.

Shannon Dosemagen, Public Lab Director of Outreach and Partnerships said, "From this weekend, we've been able to develop working groups on topics such as education, create an alpha tester group for the new Public Lab website, and build stronger networks and collaborations with people who've been active in the Public Lab community over the last few years. Looking forward in the next year, we're excited to develop a support structure for local mini-barn raisings where people can get together in their own community to work on tool and idea development."