Jan 13, 2012

PARTICIPATORY SENSING 1/4-The Data-Citizen Driven City

This post is the first of 4 posts about Participatory Sensing (projects and research) that are going to be published weekly for the next 4 Fridays.

In these posts I will share my research on participatory sensing, open data and smartcities that I started about 6 months ago.

The first post is about The data-citizen driven city project which I developed with César García, Jorge Medal and Sara Thomson on September 2011. With this project, produced by a multidisciplinary team consisting of an IT System Administrator, an Industrial Designer, an Artist and an Architect, I really started considering how data can empower communities and catalyze social change.

We presented The data-citizen driven city project for the 4Th ADVANCED ARCHITECTURE CONTEST “CITY-SENSE: Shaping our environment with real-time data” by The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia on the 26Th September. Our proposal focused on a technological, social and urban process would take place over ten years time. Citizens would get deeply involved into expanding the Internet of Things, adopting an active prosumer role, instead of perpetuating passive postures. In the end, data-citizen driven cities would enable local direct democracy processes that could enhance their sustainability and efficiency.

Below I present the original texts and images of our proposal where main ideas are discussed along a whole decade timeline:

Understanding reality with data, changing personal habits.
Using open source technologies, like Arduino-based sensor units or mobile apps, data-citizens will be able to gather their own real-time data regarding issues they are really concerned about, such as air quality, noise levels, street deficiencies, plagues, etc. All data will be shared in open public repositories, like Pachube, available for everyone. Long term data archival will allow citizens to gain a better understanding of the urban environment and to improve their daily personal habits.

Collective intelligence and critical mass. Social Cohesion.
Once there is a critical mass of participants, distributed citizen sensor networks will reveal new emerging patterns that will lead to a collective intelligence. Citizens will soon become aware of the political power of data and they will begin to get organized in local work groups to develop new strategies to improve their neighbourhoods. The massive adoption of sensors will bring their price down, allowing anyone to participate in the extension of this smart city data layer, regardless of their income.

Renovation of the Social Contract. Collective emerging actions.
Involvement and commitment will be part of a new social contract in which the rights and obligations of the citizens and the institutions will be redefined.
The maintenance and development of local resources will be delegated to neighbours that will feel engaged in the improvement of the urban ecosystem. Alarm warnings will not be accounted for in an isolated way; an holistic approach based upon data modelling will provide a global solution taking into account all the gathered data. Open data governance and accountability will be enforced through civil actions. The mission of local institutions will consist in supporting these local processes and developing long term plans.

Conclusion: A more sustainable and democratic city.
By the year 2020, citizens will participate in direct democratic processes at a local scale to transform the city into a more sustainable and efficient environment. Data will enable new uses of public spaces offering streamlined solutions. People will feel highly engaged towards their neighbours and surroundings in contrast to their previously detached postures.
The success of radically open transparent processes will constitute a genuine milestone in the transformation of 21st century public institutions.

2nd December Arduino programing workshop at Medialab-Prado at the “ViernesOpenLab

On the 5th December results where made public and we obtained an Honourable Mention. Anyway the most interesting part of The data-citizen driven city project started once the proposal was submitted. On October we decided to start-up a study group to continue working on the DCDcity and its physical implementation at the “ViernesOpenLab” at Medialab-Prado. We have already got in touch with the “air quality egg” project members to collaborate into this global network of air quality enthusiasts. But this is another story that might be written on a future post.

Getting Started with the Internet of Things by Cuno Pfister.
The value of open hardware is in the empowerment of communities by Usman Haque.
Program Your City: Legal and Governance Issues of an Urban Integrated Open Data API by Marcus Foth, Queensland University of Technology.
Smart People, Dumb Objects, Networked Environments by Usman Haque.
Notes on the Design of Participatory Systems – for the City or the Planet by Usman Haque.
Talking back to your intelligent city by Saskia Sassen.
Participatory sensing by Burke, Jeffrey A; Estrin, D; Hansen, Mark; Parker, Andrew; Ramanathan, Nithya; Reddy, Sasank, UC Los Angeles: Center for Embedded Network Sensing.

I wrote this post for complexitys for a month time collaboration about Participatory Sensing.


  • […] Hace unas semanas meditaba en este blog sobre estas cuestiones. Defendía el modelo del proyecto The Data Citizen Driven City  y criticaba el concepto smarter city de IBM por su vocación de ´big brother´ vertical. Y nada […]

  • […] dos smart citizens sobre estas questões. Por um lado, temos o modelo descentralizado do projeto The Data Citizens Driven City   (cidadãos enviando informações ambientais graças à sensores dos telefones celulares); do […]

  • […] and it Pachube’s workshop. On the 28 March Cesar García and I had the oportunity to present DCDcity project at the 6th IOT Meet up in London. DCDcity project is being developed by a group study on Fridays at […]

  • Hi everybody,

    Congratulations on the hard work. I got intrigued with what you are working on, but I am not sure if I understand everything correctly. When I see the ideas for ‘smart cities’ of companies like Siemens, IBM, Cisco etc I always wonder whether they are fully aware of how differentiated ‘urban citizens’ are and that not everybody owns a smartphone or a (Apple) laptop.

    What is your position on this? Are we not producing new forms of urban inequality with this new types of technology-driven programmes?

    Maybe not everybody is waiting for ‘streamlined solutions’. When we aim for ‘People to feel highly engaged towards their neighbours and surroundings in contrast to their previously detached postures’, we should realise that social cohesion cannot really be engineered through technology. It risks sounding a bit utopian, doesn’t it?

    I’m sure you’ve thought about all this.

    Good luck with the projects!

  • […] Prado, trabajan por otro orden de datos distribuidos y abiertos. Y proyectos como Open Energy o Data Citizen Driven City prueban que los teléfonos móviles pueden transformar la ciudad, gracias a la plataforma de […]

  • […] para construir arquiteturas de dados distribuídos e abertos. Projetos como Open Energy ou Data Citizen Driven City provam que os celulares podem transformar a cidade graças ao hardware livre Arduino. Os […]

  • […] The Data Citizen Driven City (Madrid, España). Este proyecto, desarrollado también en el MediaLab Prado, es una especie de […]

  • […] The data-citizen driven city planteaba un marco teórico práctico por el cual la ciudadanía tomaba parte en la captación de datos sobre su entorno. Desde Octubre de 2011 César García y yo promovemos la implementación del proyecto en la ciudad de Madrid dentro de los Viernes Open Lab de Medialab-Prado. El desarrollo del proyecto se produce desde el convencimiento de que los datos pueden empoderar a las comunidades y catalizar un cambio social; y se encuentra dentro del marco académico del “Participatory sensing” que traducimos como captación de datos participativa. […]

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