Participatory Sensing, Opinions and Collective Awareness

Part of the series Understanding Complex Systems pp 201-212


Usability and Interaction Dimensions of Participatory Noise and Ecological Monitoring

  • Charlene JennettAffiliated withUCL Interaction Centre, University College London (UCL) Email author 
  • , Eleonora CognettiAffiliated withUCL Interaction Centre, University College London (UCL)
  • , Joanne SummerfieldAffiliated withUCL Interaction Centre, University College London (UCL)
  • , Muki HaklayAffiliated withUCL Interaction Centre, University College London (UCL)

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The integration of sensors in smartphones has transformed personal mobile phones, from tools primarily meant for communication purposes, into instruments that can sense or collect information about the surrounding environment (Lane et al. 2010). There are several mobile apps that allow ordinary members of the public (non-professionals) to collect fine-grained data about their environment and to contribute to real research. By involving citizens in environmental monitoring activities this helps to raise their awareness of environmental issues (Becker et al. 2013). However there are also challenges in the use of such apps. The lower-end sensors for mobile phones do not give the same level of data accuracy as specialised devices. The data is being collected by ‘inexpert’ citizens, which may add to perceptions of the data being inaccurate. Also, in order to apply complex statistical models, the data needs to be collected in mass quantities. This raises two questions about the citizens involved: (1) what is their experience of using the app and (2) what factors motivate them to participate?