From the MIT News Office:
When representatives from natural gas companies knock on doors in rural areas to try to lock up deals for drilling rights, they typically hold most of the cards. They have the knowledge and experience about the process, while the landowner often has little or no information about what kinds of deals other residents in the area have agreed to—or about such issues as toxic chemicals that have been used in other drilling sites and the health effects residents say they have experienced. Currently, there is no easy way to find such information.
A team of MIT researchers hopes to remedy that. They are developing a suite of software applications to extract information from government and corporate databases, along with input from citizens in the affected areas, and make it all available in a clear, easy-to-navigate form. “This is an experiment to see if we can develop new tools to help communities self-organize,” says Chris Csikszentmihalyi, head of the Media Lab’s Computing Culture group and co-director of MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media.
Within the next few days, the MIT team will begin tests of one of their new software tools, Landman Report Card (LRC), with small groups of landowners in Colorado and Ohio, and eventually extend the tests to New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, all of which are experiencing new booms in natural gas exploration.