lytics, community engagement, and
research methods. To connect science
tightly to local concerns, we call for
establishing CCS as a formal research
field and integrating both computational and design thinking skills into
curricula, which involves understanding local concerns through community fieldwork, forming the research
question, co-designing technology
infrastructure with communities, and
evaluating the social impact after system deployment. In this way, we go beyond the mind-set of “citizens as scientists” to “scientists as citizens.” We
envision that CCS can drive sustainable HCI toward citizen empowerment
at a time when community concerns,
sustainability issues, and technological ethics are at the forefront of global
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Yen-Chia Hsu ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Project
Scientist at the Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon
University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
Illah Nourbakhsh ( email@example.com) is K&L Gates
Professor of Ethics and Computational Technologies
at The Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University,
Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
Copyright held by authors.
domized experiment on two independent communities can be misleading.
Although it is difficult to statistically and rigorously validate the
impact of systems on communities,
understanding “How can the system
be influential?” and “Does the community think that the system is influential?” can be beneficial. Through
qualitative and quantitative analysis,
the evaluation of impact can provide
valuable insights to inform system
design for the HCI community. For
instance, our work, a community-empowered air-quality monitoring system (see the left image in the figure)
enabled affected residents to present evidence of local air pollution
for social activism, including smell
reports, sensor data, and videos from
monitoring cameras. 6 It studied how
community members used animated
smoke images and found that both
manual and automatic approaches
for generating images are essential
during the engagement life cycle. The
data provided by the system, combined with personal stories from affected residents, urged regulators to
respond to the air pollution problem
during a public community meeting.a
Despite the small sample size in the
analysis of self-efficacy and sense of
community, the survey study found
that the capability of using data-driven evidence from multiple perspectives is an important reason that the
communities felt more confident after interacting with the system.
Our other work—Smell Pittsburgh
(see https://smellpgh.org)—is a mobile application that enables residents to report pollution odors and
track where these odors are frequently concentrated. 7 From our previous
work, we found that smell experiences were valuable in representing
how local air pollution affected the
living quality of communities. In
this Viewpoint, we translate this lesson from a hyperlocal to a citywide
scale and provide insight into how
smartphones, sensors, and statistical
methods can be used to support CCS.
The data analysis showed that events
of poor smell were related to a joint
a Regulators reviewing Shenango Coke Works’
compliance with 2012 consent decree:
effect of wind information and hydrogen sulfide. A survey study found that
motivations for community members
to use Smell Pittsburgh came mainly
from internal factors, including the
desire to contribute data-driven evidence, concern about the welfare of
others, and the ability to validate personal experiences using the visualization. This result was reinforced by the
quantitative analysis of system usage,
which identified a moderate association between contributing data and
interacting with the visualization.
The reports collected via Smell Pittsburgh were printed and presented by
the community at the Board of Health
meeting with the local health department, which urged the regulator to
enact rigorous rules for petroleum
Community Citizen Science aims to
empower everyday citizens and scientists to represent their voices, reveal local concerns, and shape more equitable power relationships. Lessons that
are learned from hyperlocal scale projects may be translated to large scale
ones. However, when conducting CCS
research, it is essential to acknowledge that replicating successful experiences and “parachuting” technology intervention without thoughtful
consideration can cause irreversible
harm to communities. Developing
interactive systems to support CCS
requires training of multidisciplinary
skills, including system development, interaction design, data ana-
b Allegheny County Health Department defends
air quality efforts, plans stricter coke plant
Lessons that are
projects may be