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Challenging Risk Governance Patterns Through Citizen Sensing: The Schiphol Airport Case

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Document pages: 20 pages

Abstract: This contribution analyses how citizen sensing initiatives can contribute to or, contrarily, hinder the governance of certain or uncertain public health risks. It draws on the example of the Schiphol Airport case, where citizens developed a bottom-up system for tracking and reporting noise after the Dutch Minister of Transport, Public Works and Water Management responded to their complaints about expanding the airport with the statement that ‘Noise cannot be measured’. Despite the State’s position of no adverse effects on the inhabitants’ well-being, local residents started reporting ailments ostensibly linked to the increase in noise pollution. The central questions this contribution addresses are: how did lay people living near Schiphol use citizen sensing to respond to the risk represented by the increase in noise? How did this bottom-up initiated monitoring intertwine with the traditional top-down governance of the risk? The interplay between four theoretical concepts related to the case (citizen sensing, risk governance, lay people and social accountability) serves as a lens of observation for analysing the case. The ultimate goal is to assess whether ‘pure’ citizen sensing, only recognized by the institutional system at a later stage, can succeed in fostering social accountability of institutional actors to citizens exposed to a specific public health risk.

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