Current projects at the University of California Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society's Social Apps Lab include eradicating dengue fever, reducing asthma, and engaging citizens in local urban issues.
"At the Social Apps Lab, we aim to harness the participatory and creative energies of game play to address social issues," says researcher James Holston.
The dengue fever app, DengueTorpedo, enables users to mark potential mosquito breeding sites on a map. Users get points for identifying and destroying breeding grounds, as well as recruiting new players. The Social Apps Lab also is developing Pwning Asthma Triggers, a game in which users identify sources of asthma-inducing industrial pollution in Oakland and agricultural pollution in the Central Valley. Another project is CitySandbox, a map-based Web site that aims to bridge the gap between local neighborhood knowledge and larger political institutions. CitySandbox users can mark sites on the map and ask questions of other users.
All of the projects aim to engage local residents in critical thinking, gathering data that can be prioritized, and turning the results into civic action, according to Holston.
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