Community-Empowered Air Quality Monitoring System (ACM CHI 2017 Full Paper, Top 5% Honorable Mention Award)

Developing information technology to democratize scientific knowledge and support citizen empowerment is a challenging task. In our case, a local community suffered from air pollution caused by industrial activity. The residents lacked the technological fluency to gather and curate diverse scientific data to advocate for regulatory change. We collaborated with the community in developing an air quality monitoring system which integrated heterogeneous data over a large spatial and temporal scale. The system afforded strong scientific evidence by using animated smoke images, air quality data, crowdsourced smell reports, and wind data. In our evaluation, we report patterns of sharing smoke images among stakeholders. Our survey study shows that the scientific knowledge provided by the system encourages agonistic discussions with regulators, empowers the community to support policy making, and rebalances the power relationship between stakeholders.

Impact after System Deployment

ER visits for asthma dropped 38% the year after one of Pittsburgh’s biggest polluters shut down,


Yen-Chia Hsu, Paul Dille, Jennifer Cross, Beatrice Dias, Randy Sargent, and Illah Nourbakhsh. 2017. Community-Empowered Air Quality Monitoring System. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’17). ACM.

See the ACM Digital Library publication for additional materials.

The survey that we used in the paper can be downloaded here.

BibTex Citation

 author = {Hsu, Yen-Chia and Dille, Paul and Cross, Jennifer and Dias, Beatrice and Sargent, Randy and Nourbakhsh, Illah},
 title = {Community-Empowered Air Quality Monitoring System},
 booktitle = {Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems},
 series = {CHI '17},
 year = {2017},
 isbn = {978-1-4503-4655-9},
 location = {Denver, Colorado, USA},
 pages = {1607--1619},
 numpages = {13},
 url = {},
 doi = {10.1145/3025453.3025853},
 acmid = {3025853},
 publisher = {ACM},
 address = {New York, NY, USA},
 keywords = {adversarial design, air quality, citizen science, community engagement, data visualization, participatory design, sustainable hci},