WeSense: Social Sensing and the Quality of Urban Environments by Alexandra Tisma

Keynote Talks


#KeynoteTalks 15 September 2017

WeSense: Social Sensing and the Quality of Urban Environments

Knowledge about how the urban environment is perceived by citizens is important for urban planners and designers, and can play a role in operational and strategic decisions. The perception of citizens can be used to streamline the urban ‘logistics’ and planning, and thus improve the quality of life in the city. But governments, designers and scientists still lack the “soft” data on how people perceive their environment. In order to collect these data researchers from Delft University of Technology in cooperation with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) have been developing the project WeSense. The project uses an iPhone app to collect and display soft data on the citizens perception of the environment.


The questions – which environmental factors affect the perception of the urban environment and what effect this has on people are central to this study. Weigh factors such as visual variety and busyness harder than, say, beauty and tranquility? What impact do scents and sounds have on our perception of a park or square? And how do these factors influence the restorative value of the living environments of people?


iPhone app

WeSense beeps users once (or more) a day and ask them to fill out short surveys about their perception of the current surroundings and about their wellbeing, who they are with, where they are, and what they are doing. When outdoors, users can also upload a photo so that researchers can also see what they see at that moment. As soon as five responses are sent graphs and photo album are revealed to users so they can get better insight in their preferences. On the website wesense.info dynamic maps and charts present the aggregated data analyses.

Download We Sense at App Store Download on iTunes Apple


*Social Sensing stands for “motivating people to gather and share data in order to identify certain phenomena” and “soft data” means subjective, qualitative information delivered by people.

Alexandra Tisma is a senior researcher at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague and the researcher at the Faculty of Architecture in Delft. Her research interest involves urban and metropolitan landscape quality and policy evaluation, citizens science and citizens participation in urban planning. She also works as a tutor at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture. From 2005 till 2015 she worked as associate professor at the department for Horticulture and Landscape Architecture in Novi Sad, Serbia where she taught landscape planning. Till 2001 Alexandra worked as a research scientist at the Faculty of Architecture in Delft. Previously she was senior designer at the Town Planning Institute of Vojvodina, Yugoslavia, and research scientist at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. She is a member of the Netherlands Association of Landscape Architects, Serbian Association of Landscape Architects, and Le-NOTRE network. Alexandra holds a PhD degree from the Delft University of Technology, Master degree in Design, Planning and Management of Built-up Environment from the Faculty of Architecture, Delft University of Technology and University degree in Horticulture from the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Novi Sad. Alexandra defended her PhD thesis “Delta_M: A Tool for Metropolitan Designing Systems”, at the Delft University of Technology in October 2001.