The Countercultural Potential of Citizen Science

McQuillan, Daniel. 2014. The Countercultural Potential of Citizen Science. M/C Journal, 17(6), [Article]

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Abstract or Description

What is the countercultural potential of citizen science? As a participant in the wider citizen science movement, I can attest that contemporary citizen science initiatives rarely characterise themselves as countercultural. Rather, the goal of most citizen science projects is to be seen as producing orthodox scientific knowledge: the ethos is respectability rather than rebellion (NERC). I will suggest instead that there are resonances with the counterculture that emerged in the 1960s, most visibly through an emphasis on participatory experimentation and the principles of environmental sustainability and social justice.
This will be illustrated by example, through two citizen science projects that have a commitment to combining social values with scientific practice. I will then describe the explicitly countercultural organisation, Science for the People, which arose from within the scientific community itself, out of opposition to the Vietnam War. Methodological and conceptual weaknesses in the authoritative model of science are explored, suggesting that there is an opportunity for citizen science to become anti-hegemonic by challenging the hegemony of science itself. This reformulation will be expressed through Deleuze and Guattari's notion of nomadic science, the means through which citizen science could become countercultural.

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counterculture, citizen science, Science for the People, Theodore Roszak, hegemony, Isabelle Stengers

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December 2014Published

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Date Deposited:

21 Apr 2015 08:01

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:10

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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