Designing for Doubt: Citizen Science and the Challenge of Change

…presented at “Engaging Data: First International Forum on the Application and Management of Personal Electronic Information”, MIT,  12 – 13 October 2009…

Designing for Doubt: Citizen Science and the Challenge of Change

Eric Paulos, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

“Vast quantities of data are collected about us and our world: credit card transactions, movements and traffic flows, social networks, disease outbreaks, bird migrations, and flowers blossoming. These datasets span a wide range of public and private information and contexts. However, it is the emergence of a host of mobile phone based citizen sensing platforms that is poised to become the dominant contributor to our datasets. In this paper we outline this important new shift in mobile phone usage – from communication tool to “networked mobile personal measurement instrument”. We propose to explore how these new personal measurement instruments enable an entirely novel and empowering genre of mobile computing and research called citizen science. More importantly we highlight a set of challenges and focus specifically on the need for introducing design strategies for engaging these datasets that encourage doubt rather than promoting blind acceptance of fact as a path towards social change.”