Community-Based Public Authoring With Mobile Chemical Sensor Networks

Sense Editor
August 30, 2012

ABSTRACT

After the industrial revolution, the humanity faced a great period of urbanization and development of industry. At that time, several natural environments were degraded and nothing was done to minimize and mitigate the impacts. Nowadays, scientists have proven two facts to be true: those environmental issues are harmful to life, and the mankind is the main responsible for them. Consequently, that lead us to two questions: How to raise awareness of environmental issues, and how to motivate the community to reduce them?

Researchers at UCL in conjunction with other researchers have created a project to provide community knowledge, empowerment and experience that lead to changes in attitudes, enabling them to act collectively to raise awareness of environmental issues. This project is named Robotic Feral Public Authoring (RFPA) and consists of training community people to use toy robots with embedded cheap electronics to sense pollution in the environment, and share knowledge about their environment. The data collected by the robots are sent to a server called Urban Tapestries, which is one of the first platforms to allow ordinary users to create and share their data.

The London Fields public park was selected as the location to run this experiment for being a public space used by distinct communities. A group of 15 participants equipped with audio devices, digital cameras and Pollution Sensing eNotebooks explored London Fields looking for evidence of pollution. The information collected in the exploration was then mapped on to a large aerial photograph of the area. This pollution mapping became a starting point to further explore visible and non-visible concerns about pollution within the community. In addition, it has shown that this technology is very useful in assisting in the detection of pollution. This project enabled the community to visualize the pollution that they in part cause, highlighted concerns, and reinforced the perception of pollution in the area. Therefore, it provides to people a way to learn about their environment and have evidence to act to make a change. In the near future, researchers plan to explore social, cultural and educational uses and techniques needed to add the sense of purpose and context to environmental sensing.