Wednesday, March 11, 2009

ETech: Enabling Citizen Science

I'm in "Enabling Citizen Science" with Eric Paulos...


Eric Paulos

In the early 60's Kennedy challenged the world to put a man on the Moon, and peopled rallied behind it, but it was scientists that went out and did it. You can argue about that the big issues are right now, but certainly one of biggest is the environment. In this challenge, of course scientists are going to play a role, but the solution is going to be much more driven by people.

When you given people sensors strange things happen. Everyone wants to set the sensor off, and people become possessed with an aura of authority, they start wandering into people's houses for instance...

Eric is arguing that while we should be doing projects that can be provocative, or playful, but should be purposeful.

We want our tools to sing of not just productivity but of our love of curiosity the joy of wonderment, and the freshness of the unknown

We need to set our computing free, we talk about designing for disassembly, but what about designing for activism?

Citizen science has a long history, well over 100 years, one of the longest running projects is the citizen bird count. Even though most people are pretty bad at this, wisdom of crowds tends to apply and remove the outliers, and the data actually turns out to be good on average.

How hot is it in this room? Which direction is the wind blowing? Which direction am I facing? Is that water safe safe to drink? Is the carpeting treated with chemicals? Are my children's toys free of lead? There is clearly a motivation to have sensor-rich tools, mostly to improve the mobile interface, but the other phenomenon driving this is citizen driven content creation.

Sensing is coming to your phone, and it's not just accelerometers anymore...


Pollution maps from citizen scientists

We want to engage people to do street science that results in practical action, and motivate people to gather, analyze, share and act upon information...

Tell me, I forget.
Show me, I remember.
Involve me, I understand. - Chinese Proverb