Ignoring Ignorance: Notes on Pedagogical Relationships in Citizen Science

Michael Scroggins


Theoretically, this article seeks to broaden the conceptualization of ignorance within STS by drawing on a line of theory developed in the philosophy and anthropology of education to argue that ignorance can be productively conceptualized as a state of possibility and that doing so can enable more democratic forms of citizen science. In contrast to conceptualizations of ignorance as a lack, lag, or manufactured product, ignorance is developed here as both the opening move in scientific inquiry and the common ground over which that inquiry proceeds. Empirically, the argument is developed through an ethnographic description of Scroggins' participation in a failed citizen science project at a DIYbio laboratory. Supporting the empirical case are a review of the STS literature on expertise and a critical examination of the structures of participation within two canonical citizen science projects. Though onerous, through close attention to how people transform one another during inquiry, increasingly democratic forms of citizen science, grounded in the commonness of ignorance, can be put into practice.


DIYBio; citizen science; pedagogy

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17351/ests2017.54

Copyright (c) 2017 Michael Scroggins

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