24 November 2008

The rise of the sensor citizen

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Citizen Science
The current issue of Vodafone’s Receiver magazine — on space and location — is one of the best yet. Every week the editors invite another thoughtful thinker to contribute an essay on the topic, and this week the honour goes to Anne Galloway.

Anne Galloway (blog) recently completed a PhD in sociology and anthropology at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, which involved conducting an ethnographic study of the design of mobile and pervasive technologies (download dissertation). She is interested in connections between technological, spatial and cultural practices, and her current research explores design as a social and cultural activity and asks how social and cultural relations are designed.

In her (somewhat academically written) Receiver contribution she takes a close look at community mapping and sensing projects, and points out both the opportunities and challenges for activism made possible by locative technologies.

“Community mapping and sensing projects that use commonly available consumer electronics as environmental measurement devices, enable people to collect and view a wide array of location-based data. As a form of public science, such projects stand to reinvigorate environmentally focused civic engagement. However, given public concerns around environmental risks and their connections to technological progress, I believe that this kind of active citizenship should promote more critical reflection on the values and goals of the very projects that expect to create such profound changes in these domains, and carefully consider the limits of its own power.”

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A related paper is “Mobile Publics and Issues-Based Art and Design.” To Appear in Sampling the Spectrum, edited by Barbara Crow, Michael Longford and Kim Sawchuck, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, forthcoming 2008.

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