Citizen sciences: generating GeoStories as epistemic maps

The Citizen Science GeoStories project is a collaborative and co-engaged research project which intended to support three citizen science projects to (re)stor(y) their knowledge work from a decolonial, post-abyssal perspective (after Santos). We drew the concept of GeoStories from the work of Donna Haraway, and generated a methodology through which we could re-tell the stories of collective knowledge work in multi-modal ways which allowed our project collaborators to co-represent their ecologies of knowledges more fully.

The research team focused on supporting project teams to re-frame their understanding of knowledge work and representation from a decolonial perspective, while developing a range of knowledge tools to support the translation of these conceptual shifts into practice. The project teams focused on convening a range of artefacts and self-representation contributions into a digital multi-modal GeoStory. Together the teams worked to understand how knowledge was being built within these three citizen science projects, and how their knowledge work might be more justly co-represented. 

The catalytic concepts we engaged in our collaboration were:

  • Epistemic, contributary and distributive justices
  • Ecologies of knowledges
  • Active citizenship
  • Co-expertise
  • Participatory governance 

Key findings:

  • Each project mobilised five or more knowledge forms as they co-produced common knowledge. Each form of knowledge was dependent on related forms of expertise;
  • Relational and situated knowledges played a key role (often more key than scientific knowledges) in unlocking local contexts both in relation to building knowledge and in terms of using that knowledge to inform applied interventions in context;
  • The more strongly each knowledge form was articulated, the stronger the ecology of knowledges. Relationships between different knowledge forms needed to be intentionally strengthened and supported, because the stronger the relationships between diverse knowledge forms, the more coherent the co-produced knowledge became, and the more sustainable and enduring the interventions into context became. 
  • Boundary agents were required to mediate between informal and formal knowledge spaces, and needed to be able to translate knowledge contributions into various formats and leverage various forms of legitimacy. The more versatile and connected the boundary agents, the stronger the formalised representation of knowledge work became; 
  • Projects required sustained support to first un-learn how to tell the stories that dominated their reporting structures (often formats which privileged scientific and governance knowledges and obscured other forms of knowledge work), and then to engage in (re)stor(y)ing and (re)membering, which supported co-presence and co-representation of knowledge work and knowledge priorities;
  • Part of the contribution of the research team was to generate a language of (re)description based on previous research work. This catalysed the (re)stor(y)ing work and enabled to projects to defend this form of co-representation within their institutional structures. 
Key Themes:
Climate Action
Decolonising Research and Addressing Inequalities
Location: south africa
Principal Investigator: Priya Vallabh
Co-Investigators: Sheraine van Wyk
Host Organisation: Whale Coast Conservation
Duration: 12 months