The raise of Fablabs and other maker spaces is creating new opportunities for citizen-driven innovation in domains ranging from open hardware to digital fabrication, community informatics, and participatory sensing. In the past five years, the broad availability of open hardware tools, the creation of online data sharing platforms, and access to maker spaces have fostered the design of low cost and open source sensors that citizens can appropriate to engage in environmental action. By collectively measuring and making sense of their environment, citizens can become aware of how their lifestyle affects the ecosystem and be inspired to adopt more sustainable behaviours.
Official bodies typically measure environmental qualities with sparse networks of high quality sensors, and the resulting data are analysed to inform policy and regulations. At the same time, with the exception of extreme cases like smog pollution, citizens tend to be unaware of the health threats that they are subjected to on a daily basis. Moreover, they lack the means to act on their own behalf. By encouraging and enabling the creation of bottom up sensor networks, and sharing the resulting data and knowledge, the EU-funded project Making Sense aims to add to the available data and understanding, and contribute to a healthier and cleaner environment.
Making Sense will show how open source software, open source hardware, digital maker practices and open design can be used by local communities to make sense of their environments. It will develop a Making Sense Toolkit based on the Smart Citizen platform for bottom up citizen science, developed at Fablab Barcelona. The toolkit will be developed and tested in nine pilots in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Pristina.
Based on these pilots, we will develop framework for participatory environmental maker practices. It will show how to provide citizens and communities with tools to enhance their everyday environmental awareness, to enable active intervention in their surroundings, and to change their individual and collective practices. And finally we will develop will develop a framework for citizen co-inquiry and action towards transformation of their surroundings.
Stakeholders and funding
Making Sense will run from November 2015 to the end of 2017. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 688620.
The consortium consists of Waag Society (Lead partner - Netherlands), University of Dundee (UK), Peer Educators Network and Science for Change (Kosovo), Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia – IAAC (Spain), and the EU Joint Research Centre (Belgium).