Posted in Book Review

Citizen Scientist…………

(Edward Wedler was a Remote Sensing instructor at COGS. In the late ’80s, Edward and his wife, Anne decided to run an independent bookstore in the Greenwood Mall ‘The Inside Story’ A couple of weeks ago, I visited the store and purchased two books:

Mary Ellen Hannibal. 2016. “Citizen Scientist. Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction.” The Experiment LLC, New York.

Matthew B. Crawford. 2015. “The World beyond your Head. On becoming an individual in an Age of Distraction.” Penguin Books.

Thank you, Anne and Edward, for creating an accessible resource of current and local literature. They have now retired, and have sold the business.
Of course, there is still the wonderful Annapolis Regional library.

The book by Hannibal is the easier read. It describes the role that citizen scientists are playing around the world, but especially in the Western United States. Interestingly, for me, it retells the story of the relationship between Ed Ricketts, John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell. ( I wrote a blog for GoGeomatics based on the book by Eric Enno Tamm 2004. “Beyond the Outer Shores: the untold Odyssey of Ed Ricketts”, the Pioneering Ecologist who inspired John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell).

The other lesson was the back cover reference to the work of Muki Haklay. He praised the book from the perspective of Professor of Geographical Information Science and co-Director of the Extreme Citizen Science Group at University College London.

My understanding of ‘extreme citizen science’ is somewhat like ‘extreme sports’ or ‘extreme Plein Air art’. In this case, ‘extreme’ indicates that the questions are posed by the citizens, rather than the ‘scientists’ identifying the issues and the citizens providing volunteer data collection services.

Elsewhere, Hannibal (page 330) states:”I think ‘citizen scientist’ is a compliment Ricketts would gladly accept. Scientist in general refers to a man or woman alone, and citizen is communal – not only as one member among many in place and time, but across those boundaries as well”.

Connecting the dots (thanks to Edward) we are led to Muki Haklay’s blog site: Po Ve Sham means ‘Here and There’ in Hebrew. If you are a GIScientist, go to his entry on 30/09/16 “Has GIScience lost it’s interdisciplinary mojo?”

My conclusion from Hannibal’s book and Haklay’s blog is that we should not be trapped by our language. We are citizens in the sense that we belong to a nested community of interests, defined by space (Geography) and time (History). Along the way, for our own purposes we acquire observational skills, technology skills and communication skills.

Am I a ‘citizen Geographer ?’ Is Paul Colville a ‘citizen Historian ?’
Does it matter ? No.

This takes me to Matthew Crawford’s book. This is a much more challenging
read. It is part philosophy and part ‘an ode to craftsmanship’. There is also his first book “Shop Class as Soulcraft”. In the second book, there is a philosophical discussion on ‘how we learn’, with our bodies as well as our mind. While I have not yet finished the book, I am motivated by the sub-title: “on becoming an individual in an age of distraction”.

Certainly, I feel the pressure of the current ‘age of distraction’. How to mediate the information flows from FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn or access to podcasts at any time. Is it easier to manage in a rural setting ? Which dots do we connect ?

The other day, I was in a store and noticed that you can buy books that allow you to ‘connect the dots’. With a pencil you can follow the numbers and hence create an image: of the city of London or the Statue of Liberty. In these cases, you are following a predefined path. What if there is no path or there are no numbers ?


One thought on “Citizen Scientist…………

  1. Another interesting read Robert!! Makes me want to give up Vince Flynn and grab those two books. Enjoying the blog although the earlier poetry was a little sketchy!! LOL


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