Information Systems & Service Design

Digital Citizen Science @ KD²Ex: Experimental Research for Wellbeing, Work, and Education at Home

Digital Citizen Science @ KD²Ex


Daily work life has changed dramatically over the past year. But towards the better? This project is investigating metrics able to provide insights into efficiency and effectiveness of our newly emerging work environment. We focus on the home office environment with the help of flow measurement, based on physiological data such as the user's heart rate. The project is executed in a digital citizen science context, integrating citizens to sample data allowing for a deeper understanding of the overall topic.

Project Scope

In today’s working life optimizations along the dimensions effectiveness and efficiency are major goals. People who experience flow are highly involved and concentrated in their tasks. In addition, scholars and practitioners consider the role of flow at work as fundamental because people who often experience flow are typically both happier and more productive. However, the well-established method to measure flow uses self-reporting questionnaires that lack the possibility to measure flow continuously. Recent foundational research by our research group shows that the measurement of flow using machine learning based on physiological data (for example heart rate variability) is viable with good accuracy. By means of this approach, continuous flow measurement and the investigation of the individual occurrence of flow and its duration is possible for the first time. The physiological measurement of flow thus represents a first important step towards a better understanding of flow.

Image Credit: Polar Electro GmbH

Project Focus

In a state of flow, people become completely immersed in their activity, so that nothing else seems to matter and daily worries are fading into the background. In times of social distancing, flow experiences are especially important since flow could influence our daily well-being. However, flow in our daily lives is scarce, particularly at home, where many factors are distracting task execution and demand attention (e.g., household tasks). Especially students may be heavily affected by this issue, as their work and education routines are even less structured.

In the upcoming years more hybrid leaning environments will be featured leading to many opportunities, but also threats at the same time. By providing insights into the individual flow states for instance by using dashboards, users will be enabled to optimize the scheduling of their daily work. Thus, users can concentrate on the most demanding tasks during their typical flow timeframes leading to improved work effectiveness and fostering well-being as a consequence of more frequent flow situations in the daily life.

Project Objectives

During the project execution three goals are followed in general. First, a pilot study to deepen our understanding of flow in hybrid learning environments. Second, the execution of the pilot study requires a comprehensive infrastructure for processing physiological data that meets the legal requirements. Third, the involvement in the Citizen Science project by supporting the development of the citizen engagement app, acquisition of additional panel participants and knowledge exchange concerning physio-adaptive systems topics.

Further Information of the Digital Citizen Science Project

The project is embedded into the Digital Science Project, founded by the KIT Excellence University Program. Together with an interdisciplinary team consisting of different research groups of the KIT research is conducted in the following diretcitons: Support of well-being in hybrid learning environments through insights in flow (Mädche, IISM), flow experiences during teamwork at home office (Weinhard, IISM), well-being of the citizens of Karlsruhe (Scheibehenne, IISM), goal setting & feedback for home office work (Nieken, IBU), normative expectations of home office in the family environment (Szech, ECON), safety awareness when working at home office (Vokamer, AIFB) and participatory transformation research at home office (Woll, IfSS).

In accordance with the research questions, the project pursues the overarching goal of involving citizens more closely in the scientific dialogue. In order to closely involve citizens in the scientific process, it is intended to place touchpoint devices in public places around Karlsruhe, allowing citizens for example to generate own research hypotheses in selected research fields. By using these devices, a registration to the panel and also the participation in small well-defined studies is possible.

Other cross project activities are the provision of support for the infrastructure of the physiological pilot studies in the field of citizen science, the development of a dedicated citizen science app and the deployment of citizen science analytics tools.