Mobile Citizen Science – David Aanensen & Tom Igoe

Friday 17th February

Speaker: David Aanensen & Tom Igoe


EpiCollect is a data collection tool that gives a generic web application that everyone can use. Over 4500 projects have been set up using it, including human and animal disease surveillance in Africa, community monitoring, education etcetera. Application was built for Android and has now been redeveloped for html 5 which allows you to have the geolocation, storage, canvas, and many more.

Musings… citizen Science is a strange term, citizen art or citizen design or citizen engineering do not work either. Citizen science is a good word but it builds a divide between scientists and people who they want to reach, who bring their own expertise.

Tom Igoe is an Associate Arts Porgessor at ITP in NYU where hundred people are taken in every year from different backgrounds (physiotherapy, physics, librarians, …) and are trained in communications technologies. It is an art school so students make a lot of art, mix it with mechanics, electronics and create e.g. light sculptures. Another example are headphones that are small cricket habitats to get an intimate cricket experience, exploring the ears as microscopes. A lot of projects try to get people interested whom otherwise wouldn’t be interested in science or get people interested in art who would normally not be interested in the art; flipping disciplines.

Try to teach students not to get too attached to the tools, but to throw them out when they don’t work. But often the students spend so much time making the tool (e.g. a laser cutter) then don’t want to let them go because it took so long to set them up. Students are able to build precision tools without precision training.

Have the students being involved in expressiveness tools that improve the quality of life for people with different abilities. Allowing people to use tools by making them for their abilities, instead of the tools limiting them because they have been designed for others with other abilities. Some students work in therapy with others and get frustrated by the tools being inadequate, the designers and engineers they work with don’t understand exactly what they want so design their own things such as a wireless tilt sensor.

Tom Igloe started a project about how to improve the work of those that track monkeys in the forests. There were many challenges, no network in the forests for PDA and so on. Challenge students by giving them the technology and allowing them to experience it directly, for instance trying to find somebody wearing a radio collar with a radio receiver shows them how crude the technology actually is.

They also do classes together with UNICEF, where UNICEF brings in problems and the students work on it. For example, on clean water. It turned into a company, one which is open source, doing R&D for not for profit ventures.

Takeaways: *art, science, engineering and design are all personal. *Be promiscuous with your ideas; you’ll have others. *The things we make are less important than the relationships they support.

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