ON ARCHITECTURE 2017
#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?
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.
*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.