I lead a double life.
By day I am a doctoral candidate in the Extreme Citizen Science research group, ExCiteS, with Prof Muki Haklay at UCL Engineering and a researcher of the EU FP7 project "Citizen Cyberlab: Technology Enhanced Creative Learning in the field of Citizen Cyberscience". In our approach the public is engaged at every step of the research project process - from problem definition and data collection, to analysis and choosing how the results will be used. Here, my interest is in the professional expert's role as that of facilitator. Using iterative learning design, I develop and practice an approach to citizen science working alongside community members from all walks of life, facilitating the development of tools and methodologies that reflect and work towards addressing issues that matter and concern our communities.
By night, I work with members of the public through CitizenswithoutBorders, a London-based group that creates emotional, physical, and intellectual spaces to explore and extend our comfort zones and build our capabilities - practically, experientially, philosophically, etc. We do this through activities that fuse the arts and sciences into the transactions of everyday life. Many of these activities are directly linked to my role as community organiser for the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science but I also combine experiential learning techniques including rapid prototyping and improvisation theatre.
All of my work (with the public, UCL, and the EU project) converges with the goal of creating spaces as opportunities (communicatively, physically, emotionally, intellectually, digitally) that incite reflection, exploration, and challenging ourselves and our relationships with the world around us. These spaces have three key elements:
- they have multiple avenues to entry and exit
- we acknowledge that everyone has something to contribute
- we assume research not as something separate from the process of life, but rather driven by it
I focus on the stratum of Citizen Science where people initiate their own investigations and explorations (the more extreme end of 'collaborative science'), and I work with communities and through Citizens without Borders to create playspaces for reflection and engagement, as well as tools for exploration. This part of my work focuses on play - with playfulness as an inviting, attentive, and disarming attitude that facilitates the introduction of new concepts/ideas and thus breaks down barriers to full participation with otherwise 'intimidating' tools or spaces. Another part of my research is a sociology of technology focusing on issues of inclusion and exclusion in scientific research at the individual and societal levels. Of particular interest are DIY and hacking as responses to social complexity. Hacking is understood here as the ability to stretch and re-appropriate the functionality, capabilities, and meaning of a given system, conception, or structure beyond those that are prescribed by its creators.
I have an international background having lived and worked in the UK, India, Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada and Sweden. My academic background is in Geography, GIS, Environmental Engineering, and the Arts. In my Master’s degree in Rural Planning and Community Development at the University of Guelph in Canada, I investigated community adaptive strategies to rapid socio-economic change.