Goldsmiths ‘dustboxes’ aim to clear the air

Pic: Citizen Sense

Pic: Citizen Sense

South-east Londoners are being given the chance to improve and monitor Deptford and New Cross areas’ air quality thanks to new technology from Goldsmiths.

The ingenious ‘dustboxes’ – low-tech air pollution data collectors – are being handed out free to locals until April. Developed by electronics and materials designers, they can be collected from those behind the project, dubbed Citizen Sense, from the university library’s Deptford Lounge.

Dr Jennifer Gabrys, Principal Investigator on the Citizen Sense project, told East London Lines: “We are working in a participatory and practice-based way to test technologies with communities, to see how sensor technologies might help to create new forms of evidence that support community perspectives. We are now focusing on an area more local to Goldsmiths to investigate how the changing urban fabric in Deptford and surrounding neighbourhoods can also contribute to or exacerbate pollution issues.”

Recent figures from Clean Air London showed that London air pollution caused 2500 deaths this year alone.

The Citizen Sense project will be completed near Goldsmiths after Gabrys and her team discovered many parts of New Cross and Deptford are not being monitored for toxic elements, and there is also ongoing construction and traffic activity that can contribute to air pollution issues.

Jennifer Gabrys added: “The main purpose of the Citizen Sense project is to investigate the relationship between digital technologies in the form of environmental sensors and engagement with environmental issues. While low-cost and DIY sensor technologies are more readily available and easier to use, there are as many questions about how the data collected from these devices will lead to new forms of environmental citizenship or environmental change.”

People in the area are welcomed to be the part of the Citizen Sense project and check air quality to assist the research with more data. After data will be collected, it will be compared to other areas on factors such as temperature and humidity.

“We hope that the project might encourage people not simply to be “aware” of pollution, but that through monitoring they might also generate new types of environmental engagement and political practices from their citizen-led evidence making practices,”Gabrys said.

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