Citizen Sense

The Citizen Sense project is led by Professor Jennifer Gabrys and is funded through a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant. The project, which began in January 2013, investigates the relationship between technologies and practices of environmental sensing and citizen engagement.

Sensors, which are an increasing part of digital communication infrastructures, are commonly deployed for environmental monitoring within scientific study. Practices of monitoring and sensing environments have migrated to a number of everyday participatory applications, where users of smart phones and networked devices are able to engage with similar modes of environmental observation and data collection. Such “citizen sensing” projects intend to democratize the collection and use of environmental sensor data in order to facilitate expanded citizen engagement in environmental issues. But how effective are these practices of citizen sensing in not just providing “crowd-sourced” data sets, but also in giving rise to new modes of environmental awareness and practice?

Through intensive fieldwork, study and use of sensing applications, the project areas set out to contextualize, question and expand upon the understandings and possibilities of democratized environmental action through citizen sensing practices. The first project area, “Pollution Sensing,” concentrates on the increasing use of sensors to detect environmental disturbance, including air and water pollution. The second project area investigates “Urban Sensing,” and focuses on urban sustainability or “smart city” projects that implement sensor technologies to realize more efficient or environmentally sound urban processes; the third project area, “Wild Sensing,” focuses on the use of sensors to map and track flora and fauna activity and habitats.

For an overview of the Citizen Sense project, see:

Gabrys, Jennifer. Citizens of Worlds: Open-Air Toolkits for Environmental Struggle (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming). Pre-production draft chapters and project materials available on Manifold.

Gabrys, Jennifer. “Ocean Sensing and Navigating the End of this World.” Navigation Beyond Vision. Edited by e-flux. London: Sternberg Press; MIT Press, 2022. Reprint of the special issue, Navigation Beyond Visione-flux journal no. 101 (2019).

Gabrys, Jennifer. “Phyto-Sensor Toolkit: Cultivating the Swamps of Urban Air.” In Swamps and the New Imagination. Edited by Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas, and Kristupas Sabolius. London: Sternberg Press; distributed by MIT Press, 2022.

Mahajan, Sachit, Jennifer Gabrys, and Joanne Armitage. “AirKit: A Citizen-Sensing Toolkit for Monitoring Air Quality.” In the special issue, Air Quality Internet of Things Devices. Sensors 21, no. 12 (2021): 4044.

Gabrys, Jennifer. “Sensing Particulate Matter and Practicing Environmental Justice.” In Routledge Companion to Contemporary Art, Visual Culture, and Climate Change. Edited by TJ Demos, Emily Scott, and Subhankar Banerjee, 219-229. New York: Routledge, 2021.