analyze, and disseminate huge amounts
of data more quickly than ever.
Smartphones are particularly potent
data-collection and sharing devices
that are being used in many citizen-science projects. However, even though
citizen science is becoming more well
known, HCI specialists have played a
surprisingly small role in the design
and use of technologies in citizen-science projects and communities
(Sidebar 3). But with HCI know-how, smartphones can be even more
effective tools for citizen science. While
there are some large projects that
engage millions of volunteers (Sidebar
4), there are also thousands of small
projects with limited resources for
technical development. Many of these
small projects are doing important
scientific work for research, advocacy,
and conservation, and would benefit
from HCI expertise, particularly user-experience (UX) design knowledge.
WHAT CAN HCI SPECIALISTS
DO TO HELP?
As the functionality and robustness
of smartphones increase with each
new launch, there will be new design
challenges and opportunities for HCI
specialists. Games and gamification—
the inclusion of gaming elements
into apps—are hot topics. Citizen-science community development is
another important research area where
HCI knowledge and skills could be
helpful. More computationally intense
methods such as sentiment analysis,
machine learning, and machine vision
are also being explored. In addition,
we need to keep hold of the basics:
Who are the users, what will they do
with the technology, and where will
they do it? These and other issues are
Different users with different
needs. Technology that supports the
needs of different types of volunteers
will help to broaden participation
in citizen science. Currently, the
majority of citizen-science volunteers
are middle-aged, middle-income,
educated white people [ 7] (Figure 2).
Some projects also appear to attract
more women than men. More diversity
among volunteers would potentially
increase the effectiveness of citizen
science as well as raise awareness.
People differ in their technology
needs. More and more, citizens of all
ages are demanding well-designed
Recording biodiversity data is
important because it enables scientists
to examine the well-being of animal
and plant populations. Using this data,
scientists can investigate how these
populations react to habitat loss and
climate change. Typically, biodiversity
data collected using smartphones can
include photos, comments, numerical
data, video, and sound, together with
metadata (e.g., time, date, and geo-
location logging). Many strategies are
used to entice the public to contribute,
but there is potential for HCI
specialists to do much more. In this
article, I describe the role of technology
in biodiversity citizen science and
suggest ways that HCI specialists can
become more involved.
Millions of people across the world are
eagerly joining projects as partners with
scientists to collect, analyze, document,
and archive scientific data and plan
projects—a process known as citizen
science [ 6] (Figure 1). But citizen science
is not new; it has existed in various
forms for a long time. For example,
Darwin was an early citizen scientist,
and annual bird counts have been
conducted in North America, Britain,
and Europe for decades.
What is new for citizen science
today is that digital technologies enable
human crowdsourcers to collect,
to support saving species, we make
HCI design even more relevant than
ever. Design methods that increase
participants’ sense of ownership
and responsibility, such as research
through design [ 3] and crowdsourcing
design with technology users [ 4], are
particularly promising methods for
developing effective smartphone apps
Approximately 7. 2 billion humans
live on planet Earth. A portion of this
population is expected to own or share
more than 5 billion cellphones by 2019
[ 5]. Two and a half billion of these
phones will be smartphones. Phone
ownership is increasing rapidly in many
countries, including China, India,
and Brazil, as well as in some African
nations. For example, 44 percent
of Kenyans now own smartphones
HOW BAD ARE HABITAT LOSS,
POLLUTION, AND CLIMATE CHANGE?
We humans take what we need to feed, house, protect, and indulge our growing populations.
Our destructive effects on the planet are evident every day:
• Rubbish dumps of non-biodegradable polystyrene, plastic bottles, and old cars are a
blight on the landscape.
• Mountaintop mining scars the countryside, destroys habitats, and changes the land’s
• Toxic runoff from farming and manufacturing kills life in lakes, rivers, and the oceans,
creating dead zones.
• Floating islands of junk trap ocean wildlife.
• Housing developments and other human infrastructure block wildlife migration
• Climate change is causing the ice caps to melt.
• Vast areas of coral are bleached by rising sea-water temperatures.
We are in the new geological age of the Anthropocene, which is the first age in the
history of our planet that has been substantially influenced by human activity, particularly
the burning of fossil fuels [ 17, 18]. Consequently, species are becoming extinct at an
unprecedented rate compared with that of pre–Industrial Revolution times.
2 INCREASE IN
Forty-four percent of Kenyans owned
a smartphone in 2016, up from only
27 percent in 2014 [ 19]. Even though
technology is expensive and access to
the Internet is limited in many places, a
surprising number of Kenyans own, share,
or rent mobile phones for connecting
with family and friends, running their
businesses, and accessing information.
More and more, Kenyan citizens are
also becoming concerned about climate
change, loss of biodiversity, and
environmental stewardship [ 20].