Presenting Research on App Development: IAMCR 2015

The team has been selected to present their paper, “It takes a village to build a sea level rise app: Civic hacking as an approach to inform citizens about climate change in Miami,” in the Environment, Science and Risk Communication Working Group at the IAMCR (International Association for Media and Communication Research) conference in Montreal in July.

The paper is related to the team’s app, which will be released Saturday.

The abstract for the paper, authored by Susan Jacobson, Jennifer Fu (FIU GIS Center), Kate MacMillin, Juliet Pinto, Robert E. Gutsche, Jr., and Rebekah Monson (Code for Miami and Hacks/Hackers Miami) is below:

Miami is the US city most vulnerable to sea level rise. Scientists project an increase in sea level ranging from .3 meters to 1 meter by 2100, in an area where more than 200,000 people live at an elevation below 1 meter. We are building an application to help residents better understand and document the potential impact of sea level rise on their homes and businesses, including under-reported but increasingly common flooding. Our app includes a crowdsourced data collection tool where citizens may document flooding; a visualization of increasing heights of sea-level rise at the level of individual addresses; a database of flooding reports from citizens and local government agencies; and a schedule of high tides, when flooding is more likely to occur.

We view our efforts as a civic hacking project, where a group of stakeholders come together to find technological solutions to a communications challenge, using mostly open-source resources. In this paper we outline the scope of our app, and discuss some of the challenges that come with building it.

Our data combines crowd-sourced geographic information with public data available from government sources, and faces the challenges of inconsistencies in reporting that are common to crowdsourced geographic information projects and access limitations related to open data.

The public communication challenges of creating a sea level rise app are not dissimilar to those faced by journalists covering climate change.  Sea level rise is a politically sensitive topic in Miami; government and business interests are motivated to minimize the potential impact of rising seas on South Florida.

These attitudes have impacted the design strategies that we have incorporated into our application. Our user testing suggests that the ability to enter personal information into the application to see how sea level rise might impact individuals may increase the recognition that sea level rise is a serious issue for South Florida. Our experiences developing this project may be applied to other environmental communication efforts.