(University of Manchester)
Paper Short Abstract:
Citizen social science (CSS) enables the detailed examination of the barriers and opportunities to participation in generating socially robust knowledge. The data produced in CSS is an epistemology, and politics, not just a realist tool for analysis, and one that allows for more active citizenship.
Paper long abstract:
The resurgence of citizen science and participatory science, where non-professional scientists voluntarily participate in scientific activities, raises questions around the ownership and interpretation of data, issues of data quality and reliability, and new kinds of digital literacy. Citizen social science (CSS) calls into question the way in which research is undertaken, as well as who can collect data, what data can be collected, and what such data can be used for.
This paper outlines an experimental probe into the Empty Houses Project to explore the barriers and opportunities for more systemic participation in research to create socially robust knowledge. The Empty Houses Project was set up to investigate how citizens could be mobilised to collect data about empty houses in their local area, so as to potentially contribute towards tackling a pressing policy issue.
The paper uses empirical data to reflect on how the possibilities of CSS exceed the dominant view of it as a new means of creating data repositories. Rather, CSS enables the detailed examination of participation. It considers how the data produced in CSS is an epistemology, and a politics, not just a realist tool for analysis. The paper provides empirical reflections on the key facets of CSS: everyday data in place, relational ethics and the politics of method, data use and meaning making. The paper concludes that CSS is a transformative practice that emphasises collective citizenship.
Citizen science: active citizenship vs. data commodification