Citizen Science: A Study of People, Expertise, and Sustainable Development

By Alan Irwin | Go to book overview
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INTRODUCTION

Science and technology are major forces in our everyday lives. They help structure our personal and working relationships. They offer new possibilities - but also new threats. They allow opposite ends of the globe to speak to one another - simultaneously, they are linked to the possible despoliation of that globe through industrial pollution and environmental damage. Science and technology also offer new ways of understanding everyday reality - they exist both as a body of ‘facts’ about the world and as a framework for rational thought. Meanwhile, that form of rationality may blind us to alternative ways of valuing ourselves and the world around us.

This book is written at a time when the relationship between public groups, science and environmental challenges appears more pressing than ever. However, it is also written in the belief that an emerging body of scholarship and practical initiative is well-placed to address these challenges.

Of course, given the social significance of science and technology, it is hardly surprising that these themes have already emerged as a major concern within everyday life and social theory. Max Weber is particularly associated with the notion of the ‘disenchantment of the world’ through spreading bureaucracy and rationalization. Above all, Weber captured the possible contribution of science and technology both to human progress and to the undermining of human values. 1 From this perspective, the citizen both gains and loses through the spread of scientific rationality. A similar sense of gain and loss through science can be found in the writing of Marx and various social commentators since the Industrial Revolution - from Dickens and Wordsworth through to Habermas and Marcuse.

This book follows (albeit with considerable humility) in this critical tradition of examining the relationship between ‘science,

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