Interaction Design — Citizen Science

For this assignment centered on interaction design in the field of citizen science, I designed an application called “King County Plant Disease Tracker.” Our sub-topic of citizen science was plant health, and so an application to track the spread of diseases affecting plant life in the county seemed appropriate and useful. After brainstorming the idea for the application, I designed a mockup of it using the POP app. A video explaining the application and providing a walkthrough of the mockup can be found here:

Mockup of application using POP

An important aspect to any citizen science project is user motivation — user’s should have an interest in using the app regularly. For this purpose, users receive points for confirmed plant disease sightings, and these points can be redeemed for gift cards from companies partnered with the Dept. of Agriculture.

The main problem I faced was motivating users to use the application — ideally, the application would be fun and rewarding to use in it’s own right. Unfortunately, plant health is not as well suited to be the topic of a game as protein folding, for example, and so it it was necessary to motivate users with monetary compensation.

A screenshot of foldIt, a puzzle game about protein folding. Developed by UW Center for Game Science / Dept. of Biochemistry.

This project was interesting because it focused on a less mainstream topic — plant health is not a subject I’ve studied before. Having the opportunity to look inside an entirely separate field (plant health) and thinking about how it could be integrated into citizen science and mobile applications was an eye-opening creative process.