Citizen science system assemblages: Understanding the technologies that support crowdsourced science

Nathan R. Prestopnik, Kevin Crowston

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemConference contribution

32 Scopus citations


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 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 do typical system assemblages for citizen science look like? 2) What factors influence the composition of a system assemblage for citizen science? 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?

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2012 iConference
Subtitle of host publicationCulture, Design, Society, iConference 2012
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2012
Event2012 iConference: Culture, Design, Society, iConference 2012 - Toronto, ON, Canada
Duration: Feb 7 2012Feb 10 2012

Publication series

NameACM International Conference Proceeding Series


Other2012 iConference: Culture, Design, Society, iConference 2012
CityToronto, ON


  • citizen science
  • socially intelligent computing
  • system assemblages
  • web technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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