Citizens for Science and Science for Citizens: The View from Participatory Design

Citizens for Science and Science for Citizens:  The View from Participatory Design


– This paper is, I’m Dan, on
behalf of my contributors, Ali Ghazinejad, Inna
Kouper, and Hamid Ekbia, we’re all from Indiana
University Bloomington. A brief outline. What I’m going to talk
about is first I’m going to introduce citizen science
and then use the lens of participatory design to drive a wedge between two different kinds
of citizen science projects that are out there, and
support that empirically. And I’ll finally draw
conclusions about how the CHI community is uniquely
positioned to ameliorate an asymmetry that we found
in citizen science projects. Citizen science is basically
can be simply defined as the participation of
nonprofessional scientists in research. The big problem here is how
you gauge participation. And we use the lens of
participatory design, which I assume most of you
are already familiar with. Where briefly all stakeholders
are allowed a voice in conception and
implementation of a project. Now, participatory design is more familiar to the CHI community, less
so to the citizen science and SDS community. But three important differences
that participatory design sensitizes us to and this
is what we’re going to use as a lens to look at
citizen science projects is a move from linear, rational
sequences of subtasks to iterative processes of
reflection-in-action, that’s one. Two is a distinction between determinate versus open-ended and more ambiguous sociotechnical configurations. And also a move from
control to empowerment of quote, unquote users. I’m going to look at
two map-making projects. We get into this is more
detail in the paper. But I’m going to be really brief here. Modern map-making until
recently was limited to an expert group of cartographers. It was expensive, it had
to use satellite imagery. But now there are recent studies that show that more amateur map-making
can rival in terms of quality the products of expert cartographers. So we’re looking here at two
kinds of map-making projects, two citizen science projects. One is Cropland Capture. It’s very popular online. It recruits citizens to
improve the efficiency of labor-intensive subtasks in map-making because as it turns out,
we really don’t have a good idea of the location of croplands across the globe. It’s an instance of crowd science, what we term in the paper crowd science, because it puts citizens
at the service of science. Citizens are delegated to
particular subtasks that are rote, menial, and mostly repetitive. We contrast that in the paper to a civic map-making project called Kite Mapping which promotes DIY map
making and it is used to contest official maps. It uses technologies that
are familiar, quite cheap, like household items such as kites. And they create these
map-making devices via kites by using kites and stitching them together with camera phones so it’s
familiar and it’s more appealing to a broader socioeconomic base. One instance they used
this was in the case of the BP oil spill of
2010 where they were able to as I say here, contest official maps. This is what we call civic
science, which involves citizens in the process of knowledge production, scientific or otherwise. Now you might think
this is just an anecdote because we’re looking at only two citizen science projects here. We didn’t think so and we did
a coded and sample and coded 89 citizen science projects. It turns out that for every
four crowd science projects there is out there, there is
only one civic science project. There are parallels here
with participatory design because as those of you
who are familiar with the history of participatory
design know that it was a rebellion sort of reaction
against psychologistic studies of users and their needs. And instead argue that
participation should be negotiated, not psychologized, which
is what we see happening in a lot of citizen science projects. Which brings up the question
whether or not citizen science is one step behind participatory design and could learn anything from it. There’s been not a lot
of cross-pollination between citizen science
and the CHI community. One in particular, which is very revealing for our purposes is the paper of 2014, and there are several more like this. The title itself is very revealing, Designing for Dabblers
and Deterring Drop-outs in Citizen Science, where
the author has basically identified a problem in
citizen science as a lack of sustained contribution where
citizens are dropping out. Their diagnosis is that there
is a lack of motivation. And their solution is that we
should gamefy platforms better as a solution to this problem. Now this is what we refer to in the paper as a psychologization of the problem. Again, using the lens
of participatory design one might ask whether
motivation is a cause or a consequence of the
sociotechnical configuration? So, in sum, we empirically
establish an asymmetry in citizen science. We unpack the various
dimensions of this asymmetry using participatory design as a lens. There are political,
practical, technological, and also theoretical
implications for that. And we argue that looking at the history of participatory design
can give us insights as to how to rectify the
asymmetry that we find in citizen science. Thank you, I tried to
be as brief as I could. (applause) – [Audience Member] Hi,
thanks very much for that. I’m not one of the citizen science people, so you might have to find another one. I was wondering if you
could maybe comment on the work, sort of like
Stacy’s work which is looking at everyday and
amateur science and that HI has done quite a lot of research on. And where that kind of
figures in this notion of civic science, about
whether or not you took into account that kind of
amateur, everyday science that people are building
sensors for people to go and collect their own data? – That’s very good question. That’s a huge issue because
it turns out it’s really hard to define citizen science since everyone has their own definition. It doesn’t really help that
there are various descriptors like crowd science, civic,
citizen, and crowd-sourced. And there’s tons of
descriptions out there. So what we relied, because we didn’t want to just be biased in doing this, what we relied on was reputable sources like from Scientific
American, aggregate lists of projects. But the short answer to
your question is there are a couple of those out there, and that’s what we
included as civic in our, that’s why I distinguished between science and knowledge production because
what you’re talking about is more comfortably
situated in the knowledge production realm as opposed
to the narrower realm of science.

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