Kite Sensorship: Regulating China’s Airways

Abi Barnes

Launched in July 2012, FLOAT Beijing—a  community art project that utilizes citizen science—offers a simple, innovative, and non-confrontational approach to air quality monitoring: kites. Pioneered by two U.S. graduate students, the project tracks air pollutants using air sensor modules attached to kites. In recent years, China has seen an upswing in civic environmental activism, from pollution victims bringing class action lawsuits to Chinese protesters and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) exposing the polluting practices of domestic and foreign industries. While the Chinese government has improved outlets for citizens to channel environmental grievances, many of these pathways remain either heavily congested with bureaucratic rigmarole or blocked. For this reason, bottom-up initiatives that are able to bypass these channels, like citizen science and do-it-yourself (DIY) technologies, may prove vital to mitigating China’s environmental problems.


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