Developing a Citizen Social Science approach to understand urban stress and promote wellbeing in urban communities



Pykett J, Chrisinger B, Kyriakou K, Osborne T, Resch B, Stathi A, Toth E & Whittaker AC (2020) Developing a Citizen Social Science approach to understand urban stress and promote wellbeing in urban communities. Palgrave Communications, 6 (1), Art. No.: 85.

This paper sets out the future potential and challenges for developing an interdisciplinary, mixed-method Citizen Social Science approach to researching urban emotions. It focuses on urban stress, which is increasingly noted as a global mental health challenge facing both urbanised and rapidly urbanising societies. The paper reviews the existing use of mobile psychophysiological or biosensing within urban environments—as means of ‘capturing’ the urban geographies of emotions. Methodological reflections are included on primary research using biosensing in a study of workplace and commuter stress for university employees in Birmingham (UK) and Salzburg (Austria) for illustrative purposes. In comparing perspectives on the conceptualisation and measurement of urban stress from psychology, neuroscience and urban planning, the difficulties of defining scientific constructs within Citizen Science are discussed to set out the groundwork for fostering interdisciplinary dialogue. The novel methods, geo-located sensor technologies and data-driven approaches to researching urban stress now available to researchers pose a number of ethical, political and conceptual challenges around defining and measuring emotions, stress, human behaviour and urban space. They also raise issues of rigour, participation and social scientific interpretation. Introducing methods informed by more critical Citizen Social Science perspectives can temper overly individualised forms of data collection to establish more effective ways of addressing urban stress and promoting wellbeing in urban communities.

Geography; Psychology; Science, technology and society; Social policy

Palgrave Communications: Volume 6, Issue 1

FundersUniversity of Birmingham
Publication date31/12/2020
Publication date online06/05/2020
Date accepted by journal08/04/2020
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media LLC

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Professor Anna Whittaker

Professor Anna Whittaker

Professor of Behavioural Medicine, Sport