Authors:Anne Bowser (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars)
Andrea Wiggins (University of Maryland)
Paper short abstract:
We created a taxonomy of citizen science technologies arranged according to intended use. We used this taxonomy to analyze how technologies are combined to create infrastructures, and considered the role and prevalence of technological appropriation in the citizen science context.
Paper long abstract:
As citizen science grows, so too do studies of its technologies and practices, with recent research focusing on the enabling role of technologies in shaping conversations around topics including public engagement, the nature of expertise, science identities, and science practices. Yet there is no comprehensive catalog of the different technologies that are used in citizen science. In addition, there is no common understanding of how components of these sociotechnical systems interrelate, for example when projects integrate mutually dependent technologies into systems assemblages that crystallize into local infrastructures, sometimes evolving into community infrastructures connected to larger science infrastructures.
Defining technology as a physical or digital tool that facilitates a task, this paper presents a catalog of common citizen science technologies. To begin, researchers retrieved a random sample of citizen science projects from two databases, reviewing materials on each project published through websites and scholarly venues. By approaching these materials through the lens of collective action process models, we created a list of individual technologies, and then a functional taxonomy of technologies arranged according to intended use. We used this taxonomy to analyze how technologies are combined to create infrastructures, and considered the role and prevalence of technological appropriation in the citizen science context.
This empirically-grounded taxonomy offers an initial focus for STS research on citizen science technologies, system assemblages, infrastructures; the interrelationships between these sociotechnical systems at multiple levels; the role of appropriation in enabling grassroots collective action; and the values and power structures evident in these technologies.
Citizen science: Beyond the laboratory