Collaborative urban sensing with the “Dustbox” air quality monitor

Lara Houston, Goldsmiths, University of London;
Jennifer Gabrys, Goldsmiths, University of London; Helen Pritchard, Goldsmiths University of London

Boston 2017: Design and Planning

The Citizen Sense research project explores what kinds of sensing subjects emerge at the intersection of sensor technologies and citizen participation. Through practice-based and participatory research, the project asks how practices of citizen sensing give rise to new forms of environmental, political and aesthetic engagements. As part of our research on “Urban Sensing” in Southeast London, we collaboratively formed a community-based air quality monitoring infrastructure. Residents and community groups in Deptford and New Cross were invited to take up air quality monitoring with the Citizen Sense Dustbox as part of a participatory methodology encompassing a series of collaborative workshops and walks. Residents and researchers positioned monitors in the urban environment near sites of concern, thereby folding sensing practices into a range of emergent political engagements. Using our Airsift platform, changing particulate levels could be collaboratively analysed and visualized alongside weather patterns. Dustbox data was formed and operationalized within urban politics of different registers and intensities. Alongside regulatory data and other forms of citizen monitoring, citizen data was gathered to contest the short- and long-term impacts of neighbourhood construction, to influence land use through the collaborative writing of policy, and to attend to environmental health through evidencing the need to improve urban planning and design.

Published: 01/30/2023