Citizen science system assemblages: Toward greater understanding of technologies to support crowdsourced science

Publication Type:

Working paper


Syracuse University School of Information Studies (2011)


We explore the nature of technologies to support citizen science, a method of inquiry that leverages the power of crowds to collect and analyze scientific data. We evaluate these technologies as system assemblages, collections of interrelated functionalities that support specific activities in pursuit of overall project goals. The notion of system assemblages helps us to explain how different citizen science platforms may be comprised of widely varying functionalities, yet still support relatively similar goals. Related concepts of build vs. buy, support for science vs. support for participants, and web satisfiers vs. web motivators are used to explore how different citizen science functionalities may lead to successful project outcomes. Four detailed case studies of current citizen science projects encompassing a cross-section of varying project sizes, resource levels, technologies, and approaches to inquiry help us to answer the following research questions: 1) What factors influence the composition of a system assemblage for citizen science? 2) What do typical system assemblages for citizen science look like? 3) What effect does the assemblage composition have on scientific goals, participant support, motivation, and satisfaction? and 4) What are the design implications for the system assemblage perspective on citizen science technologies?


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