Sens-Us: Designing Innovative Civic Technology for the Public Good.

in DIS, Conference paper (text), Australia


How can civic technology be designed to encourage more
public engagement? What new methods of data collection
and sharing can be used to engender a different relationship
between citizens and the state? One approach has been to
design physical systems that draw people in and which they
can trust, leading them to give their views, opinions or other
data. So far, they have been largely used to elicit feedback
or votes for one or two questions about a given topic. Here,
we describe a physical system, called Sens-Us, which was
designed to ask a range of questions about personal and
sensitive information, within the context of rethinking the
UK Census. An in-the-wild study of its deployment in a
city cultural center showed how a diversity of people
approached, answered and compared the data that had been
collected about themselves with others. We discuss the
findings in relation to the pros and cons of using this kind
of innovative technology when wanting to promote civic
engagement or other forms of public engagement.