Covid-19 and New Norms of Surveillance: BIPOC Perspectives on Public Health

Just Tech Covid-19 Rapid-Response Grant – Fall 2020

Abstract

As much as Covid-19 has been a battle against a deadly virus, it has also been a battle over information. While any new disease or illness produces uncertainty about transmission, treatment and care, the global scale of Covid-19 and its intense politicization in the US and elsewhere has created an extremely fraught information environment. On the one hand, reliable information about Covid-19 is crucial in terms of prevention and treatment. On the other, Covid-19 offers a cover for collecting personal information in ways that can threaten privacy and normalize surveillance. This project investigates the surveillance implications of contact tracing, centering Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) perspectives. Drawing on feminist participatory action research methods (Gatenby and Humphries 2000) and abolitionist anthropology (Shange 2019), we ask: How do people of color and other historically over-policed groups experience contact tracing? How does contact tracing impact understandings of safety and surveillance for these same groups? Under what circumstances do these groups see contact tracing as a valuable form of community aid, and under what circumstances is contact tracing experienced as an intrusive form of surveillance and policing? Our investigation works towards a grounded and multi-faceted understanding of contact tracing that captures both the benefits and the harms presented by public health surveillance.

Research Team

Principal Investigators

Jessa Lingel

Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania

  • Bio ▾

    Jessa Lingel (she/hers) is an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and core faculty in the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her PhD in communication and information from Rutgers University. She has an MLIS from Pratt Institute and an MA in gender studies from New York University. Her research interests include digital inequalities and technological distributions of power. Using qualitative methods, Lingel studies how marginalized and countercultural groups use and reshape digital media.

Andrea Ngan

Service Designer Strategist, City of Philadelphia's Service Design Studio

  • Bio ▾

    Andrea Ngan (she/her) is a design strategist and community organizer building collaborative design and organizational strategies to envision caring, just, and joyful futures. She co-initiated the Creative Resilience Collective in 2017, the Design Justice Network Philly Node in 2019, and currently serves as a service design strategist for the City of Philadelphia’s Service Design Studio.

August (Bo) Guang

Data Scientist, Brown University

  • Bio ▾

    Bo is a senior genomics data scientist at Brown University, member of Free Radicals, and budding farmer with the Tooth&Nail collective. They obtained their PhD in applied mathematics and computational biology from Brown University in 2018. Their primary research interest is in quantifying uncertainty in phylogenetics workflows. Both their research practices and organizing work are guided by the belief that crisis and uncertainty are a gift and that we must be involved in shaping how change happens.

Feini Yin

Journalist, WHYY

  • Bio ▾

    Feini Yin is a multimedia journalist, organizer, and community fishmonger living on Lenape land currently known as Philadelphia. Feini works at the intersection of science and social justice, with the goal of supporting people in having power, knowledge, and access to choices when it comes to their food, environment, health, and wellbeing. They are the program administrator for Fishadelphia, a student-run, community-supported fishery in Philadelphia. They also organize with Creative Resilience Collective, a mental health justice group, and Free Radicals, an activist collective dedicated to creating a more socially just, accountable, and liberatory science through political education, community-led research, and grassroots organizing. In their free time, Feini enjoys fishing, cooking, reading, and spending time in nature with their dog and loved ones.

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