The Material Culture of Citizen Science and Citizen Science in Historical Perspective

In recent years, citizen science has flourished in and out of the academy. Across the globe, via projects such as   Zooniverse, socially and intellectually-engaged members of the public contribute in crucial ways to the making of new scientific knowledge. Within academic discourse, scholars have embraced the term “citizen science” as a heuristic analytical tool for thinking about activity both past and present.  Thus far, historical scholarship on citizen   science has tended to focus on people and institutions. This workshop extends the current conversation by  examining and reflecting upon the technologies and materials that have enabled citizen science to flourish. What are the practical means that fostered the break down of the divisions between professional and non-professional science? What kinds of technologies and materials can be identified, and how did they shape the interactions among participants and thus, the production, circulation and use of scientific knowledge, in the digital age and before?

Citizen Science practitioners, researchers from the Oxford-based project ‘Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries’, and members of the Max Planck working group “Working With Paper: Gendered Practices in the History of Knowledge” discussed these questions in historical perspective. In particular, our conversations concentrated on the use of paper as a central means to mediate between seemingly divergent actors and spaces and those digital technologies that have replaced it.

These discussions took place over two workshops: 'Citizen Science in Historical Perspective' (2016) (programme here) and 'The Material Culture of Citizen Science' (2017) (programme here)