Sara Wylie

Project Description

Redesigning WellWatch with Open Source Hardware Tools of Environmental Investigation

As a Humanities Center Fellow I have begun redevelopment and further analyzed an online participatory mapping tool called WellWatch. WellWatch is a tool for communities and academics to collaboratively study natural gas extraction that I pilot tested during my dissertation research. The next generation of WellWatch will be a “viral community” that networks and interrelates grassroots narratives to better understand and respond to emerging environmental health issues. Working with the other fellows assisted me in theorizing this design process and kick-started my second book project on designing digital media tools for collaborative grassroots environmental health and justice research.

Viral Culture Lecture


Dr. Wylie studies and develops new modes of studying and intervening in large-scale environmental health issues such endocrine disrupting chemicals through a fusion of social scientific, scientific and art/design practices. Wylie is an Assistant Professor of Health Sciences and Sociology/Anthropology and joined Northeastern as part of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute led by Phil Brown. She received her Ph.D. from MIT’s History, Anthropology and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS) Program. Her dissertation “Corporate Bodies and Chemical Bonds: An STS Analysis of the American Natural Gas Industry” is an ethnographic study of the role science based NGOs played in the emergence of public concerns about the human and environmental health impacts of chemicals used in natural gas extraction, particularly hydraulic fracturing. Investigating new methods for practicing Science and Technology Studies research, her dissertation developed and implemented web-based tools to help communities and experts across the country study and hold extractive industries accountable for their social and environmental health impacts. Dr. Wylie is also a cofounder of Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, a non-profit that develops open source, Do It Yourself tools for community based environmental research. In 2011 Public Lab won a Knight Foundation News Challenge Award. As Public Lab’s Director of Toxics and Health research she organized and initiated open source research projects on low cost thermal imaging, detection of indoor air hazards and community based methods for detection of hydrogen sulfide.