Jesse Zaman

Job Description

I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Software Languages Lab, which is part of the Computer Science Department of the Faculty of Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. My research is funded by INNOVIRIS, the Institute for the encouragement of Scientific Research and Innovation of Brussels

You can find more information on my personal website

Research Description

The rise of relatively cheap, internet-connected, programmable, sensor-laden smart-phones vastly increases the potential for people-centric applications. As a result, the idea of participatory sensing emerged, in which both laymen and professional users participate in gathering and sharing local knowledge about various aspects of their environment. Participatory sensing provides the enabling technology to deploy so-called citizen observatories i.e. a set of ICT-tools that provide stakeholder organizations with the instruments to collect, analyse and visualise data such that it can be used as a policy making and evaluation instrument for improving the quality of life of citizens.

A key concept in the operation of citizen observatories is the idea of a campaign, which specifies a stakeholder concern by defining the types of data that need to be collected and by describing the goal, expected feedback and analysis outcome in terms of maps, statistical results, etc. The raison d'être of the observatory then is to "run and orchestrate" a campaign in order to assure that sufficient data is gathered, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and to enable non-expert stakeholders to define, monitor and analyse campaigns in a way understandable to them.

Citizen observatories all share a similar structure, yet in the current status, constructing a new citizen observatory for a new type of campaign (e.g. air pollution, mobility patterns of users of public transportation, etc.) requires all software infrastructure to be rebuilt from scratch. The lack of a systematic, easy and reusable method for setting up new citizen observatories and for defining new campaigns poses a unsurmountable hurdle for communities and organisations as they usually lack the specific technical ICT-skills and programming knowledge needed to create the necessary server infrastructure and mobile applications. This often forces organisations to opt for a non-technological approach (i.e. pen and paper) or to spend big chunks of their restricted budget on external ICT-consultants.

The objective of my research is to develop configurable citizen observatory construction tools that enable domain experts (but non-ICT-experts) to specify campaigns without having to worry about the programming aspects of deploying a citizen observatory