The stories that sensors make possible

One of the interesting sites that I have come across recently is Urban Age.  It has a related site called Writing Cities which has released a book that is available to download as a PDF.  The chapter I’ve read is called “Sensor Narratives” (chapter eight) and it highlights what could happen when a city is instrumented with sensors and the data is made available.  How will this change how people understand or interact with their city?  Some issues it raises are:

  • the extent to which datasets (and resultant visualisations or mashups) could be manipulated for political ends or to affect public opinion
  • how the datasets could be tampered with
  • the “unreliability” of sensor networks
  • will the data match what really happens in the city?
  • how what is actually being measured by the sensors, and their location, could determine the “story” they tell
  • why education is needed to allow people to interpret what they see and make their own decisions as to its validity

It is refreshing to look at this subject from a cultural point of view rather than simply a technological one.

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