Transnational Disaster STS COVID-19 Project

The TRANSnational-STS Covid-19 Project brings together researchers in the interdisciplinary field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) to follow and analyze COVID-19 as it plays out in different settings.  The project will have digital work space,  share a Zotero bibliography and connect through an email list and Zoom video conferencing. 

Project participants are invited to adopt one or more of the project’s shared research questions to address in a particular setting, or across settings.  Alternatively (or additionally) participants can adopt a setting (at any scale), responding to all questions of interest. Participants can also add research questions, or respond to questions with a pointer to comparative examples or relevant theory and concepts. 

  • K-12 Governance and Care in the San Gabriel Valley during COVID-19-visuals
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    science teaching during a pandemic

    HS science kits

    This is an image of take home physics and take home chemistry kits using National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA) lab resources which were distributed to students at an independent (private) school in the San Gabriel Valley.

  • T-STS COVID-19 Project Research Updates
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    Research Data KE Working Group Update: 14 Sept 2020

    This sign was posted on a glass window of a butchery in a Kenyan rural town (Nyeri). The butchery uses English to remind customers of what has become accepted COVID-19 prevention protocol. The sign reminding the reader to wear a face mask reflects how the practice of wearing face masks has traveled globally and become adopted and accepted as standard COVID-19 prevention. The use of English in this rural Kenyan context is notable where the everyday language of spoken communication is primarily either the vernacular mother tongue (in Nyeri, the language of Gikuyu) or Swahili.

    The COVID-19 project of the Research Data KE Working Group collates news and public discourse identified by members of the working group that are of interest to thinking about the COVID19 epidemic in/from/about Kenya. We are particularly interested in archiving and tracking how media and other public channels are discussing the pandemic in order to identify relevant research resources and translate our individual experiences and data into collective knowledge that can support communities.

    Click here for a photo essay of images from Kenya which we plan to continue to add to over time.

    COVID-19 Places: Turkey Working Group Update: 28 Sept 2020

    As a group of researchers involved in the T-D-STS COVID-19 Project, and working on how the COVID-19 unfolds in Turkey, we focus on the following issues: the politics of data sharing, fact-checking practices, quarantine infrastructures, essential workers, science communication, and toxicity. 

    This image is a twitter thread from a member of “Science Council” (established as part of the governance of pandemic in Turkey) making an explanation about the controversial “Turkey’s first corona report.” Mehmet Ekinci and Duygu Kasdogan currently prepare a discussion piece drawing on this controversial report by approaching this controversy as an ethnographic moment in learning about particular threads to explore scientific cultures in Turkey, more particularly, to unpack science-society relations during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Energy in COVID-19 Working Group Update: 29 SEPT 2020

    This screenshot captures a visualization of responses to question 31a. of the Energy in COVID-19 project's survey of energy vulnerability during the pandemic.

    The Energy in COVID-19 project looks at how energy consumption, services, production, and futures have been impacted by the current pandemic. This includes analysis of changes in how energy is being used, experienced, and understood in the quotidian as well as how it’s discussed and planned by experts attempting to gauge the current and future energy impacts of COVID-19.

    Over the past two weeks, our group has been collaboratively analyzing the data from our “Energy Vulnerability in COVID-19” survey, which was completed in June of 2020. This 60-question survey—administered over the phone or Zoom with both structured and open-ended questions—asked respondents to reflect on their past and present energy experiences, practices, and understandings of energy systems in order to describe if and how these relations to energy have been impacted or altered during the COVID-19 pandemic. We had 81 responses from the US-based survey, and a handful of responses from the Italian (translated) and international versions. We also had a Spanish-translated version, but with no responses. We are currently using our initial analysis of survey responses to draft a new iteration of this survey that reflects our initial insights and revised research questions. As we begin to revise and re-administer this survey instrument, we will also be attempting to diversify and expand the breadth of the surveyed population. We welcome your input and collaboration in these endeavors.

    The Energy in COVID-19 working group is open to scholars and researchers interested in energy from any discipline. Starting in October, we'll be offering multiple modes of participation as we begin observing our new monthly schedule. Our weekly group meetings will be hosted on Zoom at 11am PST every Monday. The first two weeks of meetings will be devoted to discussing and publishing our monthly research briefs. The following (third) Monday, our group will host an open research share where group members can discuss their latest work in their own energy-related projects. Finally, on the fourth Monday of the month, we’ll host a discussion of a recent or prominent work in energy studies. Join us this month for our discussion of Cara New Daggett’s The Birth of Energy. If you have further questions or would like to attend any or all of these meetings, please email James Adams at

    Men wearing a mask (to protect from COVID-19) sitting on a park bench in Quito Ecuador feeding birds

    COVID-19 Places: Ecuador Working Group Update: 1 Oct 2020

    Many places speak of a second wave of COVID-19. In Ecuador we haven’t really gotten over the “first wave” but what becomes increasing evident in the streets of every main city is the “post” pandemic effect: unemployment and poverty. Millions of people are believed to be going hungry in Latin America and thousands of children struggle to study remotely if they even continue to go to school. Nearly 25,000 children have abandoned virtual classes and increasingly teachers are also absent due to delays in public teachers’ salaries and the need for alternative sources of income. But unemployment is hitting Ecuadorians the hardest. Few people can access what meager unemployment benefits the state offers (less than 400 dollars in a country where the basic cost of survival—called canasta básica in Spanish—is 503 dollars). The country’s economy is now projected to contract anywhere from 6.7% (IMF, April 2020) to 9% (Eclac, July 2020). Unemployment rate is above 13% and the informal economy is rapidly growing (was at 46.7% in December 2019). The future is grim with few opportunities for employment in the horizon, even less so with a government that will be out of office in less than six months and cares little about its own political image. The plan seems to be aggressive austerity and privatization from now until elections in February 2021. Ethnography seems more important than ever to understand what remains hidden from sight: increasing vulnerabilities, growing poverty, and multiple forms of violence. 

    UCI COVID & Toxics Cancer Alley Tour

    COVID & Toxics Working Group


    The COVID and Toxics Working Group will follow ways connections are being drawn between COVID-19, exposure to toxic chemicals and environmental injustice. We will build a Zotero bibliography, share annotations and develop a photo essay that draws out emerging articulations, visualizations, and discursive shifts, gaps and risks.

     Contact: Kim Fortun,

    COVID as Disaster

    The research group focused on ways critical disaster studies can lend insight into the COVID-19 pandemic as it continues to unfold is curating this photo essay, COVID-19 as Disaster.   If interested in helping build this out, contact Kim Fortun (, Roberto Barrios ( or Vivian Choi ( 

    Defining "Students with Specific Needs"

    Reopening K-12 schools for in-person learning is a key priority across the San Gabriel Valley and much of California. Beginning September 14th the Pasadena Public Health Department began issuing re-opening waivers for schools. These waivers require schools to follow strict protocols including regular COVID-19 tests for staff, students and families, and flu vaccinations for staff, students and families returning to campus.

    Classes are limited to 12-person stable cohorts. Student interaction across cohorts is not allowed but a teacher may teach two different cohorts. In addition over 50% of class time must be outdoors and only 25% of enrolled students are allowed to return to schools.

    To date, very few schools in Pasadena have the resources to follow this protocol.

    One conversation that is emerging in the bid to reopen schools is what counts as "specific needs" sometimes also termed an accomodation. In this waiver application, the Pasadena Public Health provide ESL (English as a Second Language) and IEP (Individualized Education Plans) as examples of students with specific needs.

    At a private progressive K-12 school, specific needs are also defined as the need for social-emotional learning (SEL). For their K-3rd grade students, SEL primarily consists of outdoor playtime at the school farm ( . Private schools are able to define SEL as specific needs because they are private and do not have large numbers of students in ESL/English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs or students with IEP.

    This is an example of how certain definitions of specific needs are not available to many students inspite of wide-spread studies that SEL is critical for all students, across all grade-levels.

    COVID 19 & Data Working Group Update: November 6, 2020

    summary by Tim Schütz


    Our working group had its kick-off meeting this week. After introductions, we did rapid representations of our current research projects (see below). We then started looking for shared topics and research questions.


    1. The relationship between small data vs big data

    2. Activism, Civic tech and Hacking

    3. What are the infrastructures that a lot of the new “COVID” technologies are built on? (transformation? repurposing?)

    4. Informational authority  and relations between different actors producing data

    5. What do we mean by “data practices” (circulation, storage, obfuscation, etc.)? 

    6. What do we mean by "data work" or "data labor"? What are forms of  micro data-labor (content moderation or microwork or ghost work or maintainers)? Could we work towards a typology?


    We briefly discussed options for regular output from the research group, considering a similar form like the Energy and COVID memos. For our next meeting, we will collect artifacts from our research projects for collaborative analysis and potentially drafting a memo. 

    We might also do a further review of the recently published DATA JUSTICE AND COVID-19: GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES. Note the combination of thematic essays and "dispatches" from different countries. 


    Ina Kim (UC Irvine): data culture in post fukushima japan; citizen science and alternatives to government data; role of “small data” across different fields of study; how do six groups of "citizen scientists" imagine ecology differently?

    Emma Garnett (King's College): air pollution; low cost wearable sensors; interdisciplinary data practices; what are data, what publics are involved; sensors designed by computer scientists that are now used to monitor COVID-19 patients in hospitals; tracking breathing technology; ventilator industry in the UK; changing legislations around air pollution post-brexit

    Megan Finn: COVID-19 dashboards; equitable health data in the US and disparate impacts; literal definition of data; vast data infrastructures used by policy makers; open source infrastructures; different scales of government and policy; 

    Four research futures: 1) media studies read of dashboards 2) open source 3) builders component -- who is doing it (link to India, proliferation of the COVID dashboard 4) small data, role of libraries and communities to self-advocate 

    Young Rim Kim (U Michigan): MERS outbreak in Korea; including COVID-19 during fieldwork; digital technologies; changing rationalities and practices; looking at different technologies; the role of civic hackers to track the movement of infected persons (response to the government not making data available). Moon administration's new tactic of publishing the travellogs on government websites (under discourse of transparency); data privacy; drawing together data across the web and data processing (what should be visualized and what should be obfuscated) 

    Tim Schütz (UC Irvine): keeping track on COVID-19 impact on Formosa plastics (economically and legally); legal challenges of the civic archive; COVID tracking in Taiwan and civic hacking/democracy movement

    Prerna Srigyan (UC Irvine): tbd.

    Energy in COVID-19 Working Group Update: November 30, 2020

    Andrew Rosenthal created this pie chart as part of the Energy in COVID-19 working group’s October Research Brief. Each month, the EIC-19 group releases a short brief with discussions of recent news articles pertaining to energy politics, policy, and use in COVID-19. Filed under the section on energy access, Rosenthal’s chart visualizes how Pennsylvania Senate Democrats plan to allocate the remainder of CARES Act funds, including the $125 million that is to be spent on utility payment assistance (Cooper 2020). Also included in this month’s brief are discussions of the changing patterns of energy use due to COVID-19 as well as the pandemic’s impact on energy access inequality.


    In addition to our monthly briefs, the EIC-19 group has also recently finished up our analysis of the first round of surveys conducted for the affiliated Energy Rights Project that is being run out of Drexel University. We are now set to embark on our second round of surveys and plan to begin conducting follow-up interviews with previous survey participants in the coming weeks.


    The Energy in COVID-19 Working Group invites all interested parties to collaborate by joining us at our weekly meetings hosted each Monday at 2pm Eastern/11am Pacific. We also encourage you to attend our monthly discussions of recent literature in the social sciences of energy and energy humanities. Having recently discussed Dominic Boyer’s Energopolitics at our last meeting, for our next session we plan to read Cymene Howe’s companion text, Ecologics.

    For more information on the EIC-19 working group or for the link to join our upcoming meetings, email James Adams at


    Cooper, Kenny. 2020. “Hughes: It’s ‘a Crime to Have $1.3B Sitting around’; Ahead of Budget Debate, Senate Dems Release Plan for Unspent CARES Cash.” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, October 16, 2020.

    COVID19 India Group November 2020 Update

    This is a collage made from the visuals discussed by this artifact's contributors at the T-STS COVID19 India Group meeting on November 24, 2020

    Three questions emerged from our discussion:

    • What gaps does COVID19 reveal in health infrastructures in this place? 

    • Who is activated as an environmental advocate during COVID19 in this place? What is their capacity to respond to COVID19 as a disaster?  (e.g. community health workers; frontline workers; labor rights)

    • Which places are being seen, or not being seen, in new ways due to COVID19? (e.g. households become a source of biomedical waste--connection to housing, biomedical waste, and public health; the boundary between gated communities and slums as a place)

    We plan to add these questions to the analytic sets (1) Questions about Places (2) Transnational Framing 

    For more details, please visit our working group page: 

    Black screen, NASA image of a supernova remnant, and the text "My student the supernova"

    My student the supernova

    This image was created after we interviewed a public high school teacher with over 20 years teaching experience. In describing the challenges he faced teaching online he talked about the relationships teachers try to build with students over a school year and how those relationships have been fundamentally altered by the pandemic.

    This teacher, who continues to commute to school to teach everyday despite the absence of students  and most of the school staff on-campus described his sense of loss during the 2020-21 school year. This visualization refers to one story where, as the teacher was leaving school four months into the school year, a student greeted him with familiarity and he had no idea who this student was. The reason? In the online classroom he had online known his student by his online avatar—a supernova amidst a field of tiny avatars.

    This story of the added distance within distance-learning offers a small insight into teaching High School during the pandemic that describes not just a different form of education (in-person —> virtual), but a fundamental challenge in developing personal relationships as the teaching year unfolds during the pandemic.