Science Communication – Human Sensors


How user-generated data can be used for citizen-centric urban planning




Participatory, citizen-centered planning processes are a necessary, but still less acknowledged approach in the development of urban and spatial planning. The proactive involvement of citizens, coupled with the latest technological processes, in these planning activities is the subject of the Urban Emotions research project, funded by FWF. In this bottom-up development process, “sensor” technologies (wearables and social media) are used as tools for crowdsourcing-based information generation, thereby promoting an inductive form of spatial and urban planning. Consequently, not only planning experts but also citizens can participate in planning and designing their living space. The integration of this participatory science approach goes hand in hand with the investigation of a variety of complementary issues with high societal relevance. The multidisciplinary approach toward this topic opens up new opportunities for science communication with a high degree of participation.


In the Humans as Sensors project, communication strategies are explicitly developed for secondary school students and teachers. We will create a multi-media experience for participants through leveraging innovative didactic methods to understand the backgrounds, technologies and methodologies of the underlying Urban Emotions approach in various event forms. Depending on the type of school and the school level, participants will be invited to different forms of knowledge transfer, for example, interactive discourse on urban emotion perspectives, edutainment-oriented stations with augmented reality implementations, or even active field studies including data acquisition, evaluation and interpretation.


The main goal of the project is the implementation of sustainable communication concepts for the Urban Emotions approach with continuous participation character and learning-through-mediation by the students. To enable access to this concepts independently of the location, communication will take place both at the location of the department, in the course of larger external events or at schools itself.

The following concepts are implemented or are planned to be implemented and will be held in the upcoming weeks and months:

  • Emotions in social media: Which (spatial) information is hidden in social media posts? How do they relate to events and phenomena across the world? How and for which purposes can this information be used?
    This and many other questions are discussed in this module together with the participants. The focus is set on a high level of interactivity. Learn more!
  • Emotions in the city: What is stress actually? Why are certain spots in the city more stressful than others? How can stress be measured? How and for what can stress information be used?
    In this workshop, questions like these are answered by the participants themselves. After researching and discussing key topics like “stress triggers”, “stress measurement” and more, their own stress level is measured. This can be done either in a real environment in the city or by triggering stress manually, e.g. by surprise presentations. Learn more.
  • Field study – Your own research experience: This concept will offer participants the chance to organize a field study on their own. Research questions are defined and task forces built for a wide range of aspects, which need to be covered in a research project. Beside the communication of urban emotions topics at a large scale, participants get introduced to the context of research and gather experience in team work and organizational aspects.

A further goal is the support for pupils with deepened interest for a wide range of topics in existing science platforms for independent research, which can be conducted within the context of pre-scientific works (VWA) or in internships. Sustainable awareness raising for participatory science and participatory urban planning is aimed by offering joint lesson planning with teachers as well as establishing long-term cooperation with regional educational, governmental and societal institutions.


Project Partners
Bernd Resch(project lead), Eva Maria Missoni Steinbacher