Invisible Dust Workshop: The Human Sensor Project at Citylabs 1.0


Invisible Dust Workshop: The Human Sensor Project at Citylabs 1.0

Over a series of four events from the 17th June to the 2nd of July, the Human Sensor Project took over MSP’s Citylabs 1.0 to explore ways of bringing art and science together to visualise air pollution. The Human Sensor Project is part of an education programme run by Invisible Dust, a future-thinking art and environment organisation with the mission of raising awareness about climate change, the environment and the negative effects of air pollution.Throughout these workshops, a mixture of artists, scientists, students and researchers took part in interactive challenges that looked for solutions and new approaches to understanding climate change.

So, what is actually in the air we breathe? We take 20,000 breaths a day but often take for granted what we are actually breathing in. Poor air quality is responsible for 3.5 million deaths each year, with vehicle exhaust fumes alone giving rise to asthma, heart disease and lung cancer. The Human Sensor Project aims to raise awareness about the harmful effects of air pollutants by bringing art and science together in inspiring new ways that will engage with people on a visual level, understanding that facts and figures alone often do not encourage people to action. Throughout the sessions, attendees had the chance to work with the BritainBreathing team from the University of Manchester, to understand how data can be utilised for interactive apps that can improve the lives of citizens. They also received an immunology session from researchers at the University of Manchester, and were able to use mobile sensor devices to measure air quality on Oxford Road.   

As a result, The Human Sensor Project has created a digital wearable costume, bringing air pollution data into the realm of fashion as a creative way to show what is in the air we breathe.The costume reacts to exposure to air pollution, changing colours and patterns according to differing air qualities and providing a dramatic picture of air pollution hot spots and the effect it has on the body. Bianca Manu, Project Manager at Invisible Dust, explained that not only can this costume raise awareness by engaging with people in a visual way, but it can also encourage people to take different routes dependent on whether air quality is poor or not. The Human Sensor Project will culminate in a series of spectacular performances as part of Manchester’s year as European City of Science, a week long festival that MSP is excited to be sponsoring this July.

Citylabs 1.0 is home to a number of exciting projects linked to the digital health revolution and finding innovative digital solutions that can improve our health and well-being, so it was great to host a project with such a huge and aspirational vision, which can make a material impact on our lives and the air we breathe! To read more about the inspirational work Invisible Dust do, see their website here, or if you would like to get involved with any of their projects please email