The kick-off meeting of the Making Sense project was held on the 13th and 14th of January in Amsterdam, hosted by its coordinator, the Waag Society – Institute for art, science and technology. The EU Policy Lab is a partner in this Horizon 2020 project under the initiative “Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation” (CAPS).

What is the Making Sense project?

Making Sense aims to develop participatory frameworks and tools for citizen-driven innovation. It will show how open source software, open source hardware, digital maker practices and open design can be used by local communities to appropriate their own technological sensing tools and address pressing environmental problems in air, water, soil and sound pollution. The project will develop a Making Sense Toolkit based on the Smart Citizen platform, and test it in pilots in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Pristina.
In the pilots, we will collaborate with communities of interest, namely citizens, local associations or civil society organisations who jointly perceive an environmental challenge in their neighbourhood, and communities of practice, such as hardware makers and tinkerers well-versed in open source technologies and digital fabrication. They will meet and collaborate at local Fab Labs and makerspaces, in order to deploy, test and improve readily available open hardware and software tools, and contribute knowledge about best practices around community-driven environmental sensing and sense-making. They will interact with experts and city officials, collect and share their own data, visualise and interpret the results, and devise ways to act on these insights, either individually or collectively.

Who is involved?

The consortium is multidisciplinary, and includes:

• Waag Society (NL)
• IAAC/ Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalunya (ES)
• Dundee University (UK)
• PEN/Peer Educators Network (XK)
• European Commission Joint Research Centre (BE)

The project also has a large network of supporting partners, from academia to national governments and arts organisations, as well as health, pollution and technology experts. Two key members of the European Fab Lab network, Fab Lab Barcelona (part of IAAC) and Fab Lab Amsterdam (part of Waag Society) are also involved in the Making Sense project.

Smart Citizen platform

smartkit person

Credits: Smart Citizen team; Fab Lab Barcelona | IAAC and MID

Making Sense will use and augment the existing Smart Citizen technology which is now in its second and improved version. This technology consists in an open source environmental monitoring platform that comprises a sensor kit (SCK), a database for storing the sensor data, a publicly available website, a data visualization API, and a mobile app. The SCK consists of an Arduino-based electronic board and shield, a battery, a Wi-Fi antenna, a MicroSD card, and a set of sensors to monitor humidity, temperature, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), sound, solar radiation, Wi-Fi hotspots, and battery charge level. The project was launched in 2012, instigated by the Fab Lab Barcelona, the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), Hangar art production centre, and Goteo crowd-funding platform.

smartkit arduino

Credits: Smart Citizen team; Fab Lab Barcelona | IAAC and MID

Way forward and key values

The kick-off meeting gathered all partners for the first time, although many have met before and/or are friends and colleagues. It was an opportunity to get to know each other better, and to gather details on each organisation and overall context. But above all, we went into in-depth revisions of work packages by mapping out tasks and deliverables (what to do and when), rearranging tasks shared by partners, spelling out opportunities for impact and outreach, and ending in the identification of a management structure and procedures.
By way of a group exercise dedicated to aligning expectations and key impacts, partners came up with five key values that characterise the Making Sense project:

Evidence-based storytelling: measurements by citizens themselves can deliver data that can be validated within the scientific community and powerful stories that can resonate with other stakeholders at the local level;
Community empowerment: tapping into the imagination, experimentation and innovation citizens are inspired and motivated to take action and enable change;
Radical openness: open source, open tools and open methods create awareness, empowerment and lead to feral adoptability;
New means of science and policy: changing the way we think about sensing through low-cost and do-it-yourself tools will effect scientific practices and political action;
Positive changes in environmental wellbeing: more concrete knowledge and experience about local surroundings can lead to changes towards more sustainable practices and lifestyles.

A high level of motivation came out in these two days and for the work ahead, certainly enhanced by a small number of partners that allows for closer collaboration and quick exchange of ideas. More updates on the project will be coming soon…

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