Modes and Existences in Citizen Science

Thoughts from Earthquake Country

  • Charlotte Julie Mazel-Cabasse Université de Lausanne


In the Bay Area of San Francisco, the earthquake contours are not easy to define: seismology is still a relatively recent science, and controversies around methods to evaluate the earthquake risk are constant. In this context, the invitation to think about the modes of citizen science is an opportunity to reflect on the modality of hybridized scientific practices as well as the process by which the plurality and complexity of the earthquake characteristics can be articulated, and sometime reconciled. Looking at different existences of the earthquake risk, the paper investigates different assemblages that question the clear-cut distinction between citizen science and science. I’ll situate the question of the mode of citizen science within the larger framework of interdisciplinarity knowledge infrastructures and the work on ‘mode of existence’ initiated by Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers (2009). Expanding our understanding with regard to how CS is performed opens the possibility of reconsidering the specific types of assemblages and infrastructures from which these modes emerge and on their distinct trajectories. It is also an invitation to make visible the integration processes, the communities, and the imaginations that “make” science.


Download data is not yet available.


Abe, Y. (2013). Why Safecast Matters: A Case Study in Collective Risk Assessment. In A STS Forum on Fukushima. Berkeley. Retrieved from

Ahn, J., Carson, C., Jensen, M., Juraku, K., Mizokami, S., & Kumagai, Y. (2015). Reflections on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident.

Ahn, J., Guarnieri, F., & Furuta, K. (2017). Resilience: A New Paradigm of Nuclear Safety. From Accident Mitigation to Resilient Society Facing Extreme Situations. Resilience: A New Paradigm of Nuclear Safety. From Accident Mitigation to Resilient Society Facing Extreme Situations. Springer.

Allen, R. (2011, April). Second Before the Big One. Scientific American, pp. 74–79. Retrieved from

Aronova, E. (2017). Citizen Seismology, Stalinist Science, and Vladimir Mannar's Cold Wars. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 42(2), 226–256.

Asdal, K. (2015). What is the issue? The transformative capacity of documents. Distinktion, 16(1), 74–90.

Atkinson, G., & Wald, D. (2007). "Did You Feel It?" Intensity Data: A Suprisingly Good Measure of Earthquake Ground Motion. Seismological Research Letters, 78(3), 362–368. Retrieved from

Boix Mansilla, V., Lamont, M., & Sato, K. (2016). Shared Cognitive–Emotional–Interactional Platforms: Markers and Conditions for Successful Interdisciplinary Collaborations. Science Technology and Human Values, 41(4), 571–612.

Bolin, R., & Stanford, L. (1998). The Northridge earthquake: community-based approaches to unmet recovery needs. Disasters, 22(1), 21–38. Retrieved from

Borgman, C. (2013). Scholarship in the Networked World : Big Data, Little Data, No Data. In Oliver Smithies Lecture, Balliol College, Oxford.

Bourque, L., & Russell, L. (1994). Experiences During and Responses to the Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Clark, A. (2002, October 19). The earth moved. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Coen, D. (2013). The Earthquake Observers- Disaster Science from Lisbon to Richter. The University of Chicago Press.

Comfort, L. K. (1994). Interorganizational Learning Following The Northridge Earthquake Of January 17, 1994. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 2(3), 174–188.

Edwards, P. N., Jackson, S. J., Chalmers, M., Bowker, G. C., Borgman, Christine, L., Ribes, D., … Calver, S. (2012). Knowledge Infrastructures : Intellectual Frameworks and Research Challenges.

Eitzel, M. V, Cappadonna, J. L., Santos-Lang, C., Duerr, R. E., Virapongse, A., West, S. E., … Jiang, Q. (2017). Citizen Science Terminology Matters: Exploring Key Terms. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, 2(1), 1.

FEMA. (1991). The East Bay Hills Fire, Oakland-Berkeley, California. FEEMA.

Foucault, M. (1970). The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. Pantheon Books.

Frankel, H. (2012). The Continental Drift Controversy: Evolution Into Plate Tectonics, Volume 4. Cambridge University Press.

Freedman, D. a, & Stark, P. B. (2003). What is the chance of an earthquake? NATO Science Series IV: Earth and Environmental Sciences, 32(1956), 201–213. Retrieved from

Geller, R. J., Mulargia, F., & Stark, P. B. (2016). Why We Need a New Paradigm of Earthquake Occurrence. In G. Morra, A. Yuen, David, D. King, Scott, S.-M. Lee, & S. Stein (Eds.), Subduction Dynamics: From Mantle Flow to Mega Disasters, Geophysical Monograph 211 (2016 Ameri, pp. 1–21). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Gerson, E. M. (2012). Integration of specialties: An institutional and organizational view. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C :Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 44(4), 515–524.

Geschwind, C.-H. (2001). California Earthquake, Science, Risk and the politic of Hazard Mitigation. The Johns Hopkins university Press.

Hansen, G. (1989). Denial of Disaster: The Untold Story and Photographs of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Cameron & Company.

Hey, T., Tansley, S., & Kristin, T. (2009). The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery. Microsoft.

Hoffman, S. (1998). Eve and Adam among the Embers: Gender Patterns after the Oakland Berkeley Firestorm. In E. Enarson & B. Hern Morrow (Eds.), The Gendered Terrain of Disaster: Through Women's Eyes (pp. 55–61). Greenwood Publishing Group.

Houdart, S. (2008). La cour des miracles : Ethnologie d'un laboratoire japonais (Sociologie). CNRS Editions.

James, W. (1906). On Some Mental Effects of the Earthquake. The Youth's Companion, reprinted in James, H. Jr, 1911, Memories and Studies, edited by Henry James, Jr., Longmans, Green, & Co. (Vol. June).

Jasanoff, S., & Kim, S. (2015). Dreamscapes of Modernity. Sociotechnical imaginaries and the fabrication of power. The University of Chicago Press.

Jirotka, M., Lee, C. P., & Olson, G. M. (2013). Supporting scientific collaboration: Methods, tools and concepts. Computer Supported Cooperative Work: CSCW: An International Journal, 22(4–6), 667–715.

Kimura, A., & Kinchy, A. (2016). Citizen Science : Probing the Virtues and Contexts of Participatory Research. Engaging Science, Technology and Society, 2, 331–361.

Knorr-Cetina, K. (1999). Epistemic Cultures: How the Sciences Make Knowledge. Harvard University Press. Retrieved from
Kullenberg, C., & Kasperowski, D. (2016). What Is Citizen Science?--A Scientometric Meta-Analysis. PloS One, 11(1), e0147152.

Landström, C., Whatmore, S. J., & Lane, S. N. (2011). Virtual Engineering : Computer Simulation Modelling for Flood Risk Management in England. Science Studies, 24(2), 3–22.

Latour, B. (1990). Visualisation and Cognition: Drawing Things Together. In Representation in Scientific Activity (pp. 19–68). Cambridge: The MIT Press. Retrieved from

Latour, B. (2000). Circulating Reference: Sampling the Soil in the Amazon Forest. Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science.

Latour, B. (2011). Reflections on Etienne Souriau's Les differents modes d'existence. In G. Harman, L. Bryant, & N. Srnicek (Eds.), The Speculative Turn Continental Materialism and Realism (Anamnesis, pp. 304–334). Retrieved from Souriau&f=false

Latour, B. (2013). An Inquiry into Modes of Existence An Anthropology of the Moderns. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Latour, B., & Lepinay, V. A. (2009). The Science of Passionate Interests: An Introduction to Gabriel Tarde's Economic Anthropology. Prickly Paradigm Press.

Law, J., & Lien, M. E. (2013). Slippery: Field notes in empirical ontology. Social Studies of Science, 43(3), 363–378.

Leonelli, S., Rappert, B., & Davies, G. (2017). Data Shadows. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 42(2), 191–202.

Lewis, J. (2008). The coming quake Is Los Angeles ready for the Big One? Lin, Y.-W., Bates, J., & Goodale, P. (2016). Co-Observing the weather, co-predicting Climate: Human Factor in Building Infrastractures for Crwodsourced data. Sciences and Technology Studies, 29(3), 1–17.

Lidskog, R. (2008). Scientised citizens and democratised science. Re-assessing the expert-lay divide. Journal of Risk Research, 11(1), 69–86.

Livingston, A. (2012). Excited Subjects: William James and the Politics of Radical Empiricism. Theory and Event, 15(4).

Lynch, M. (2013). Ontography: Investigating the production of things, deflating ontology. Social Studies of Science, 43(3), 444–462.

Lynch, M. (2014). Genius, Hawking, and expertise. Social Studies of Science, 44(793).

Marres, N. (2012). The redistribution of methods: On intervention in digital social research, broadly conceived. Sociological Review, 60(SUPPL. 1), 139–165.

Marres, N. (2013). Why political ontology must be experimentalized: On eco-show homes as devices of participation. Social Studies of Science, 43(3), 417–443.

Mazel-Cabasse, C. (2017). Hybrid Disasters—Hybrid Knowledge. In J. Ahn, F. Guarnieri, & K. Furuta (Eds.), Resilience: A New Paradigm of Nuclear Safety. From Accident Mitigation to Resilient Society Facing Extreme Situations. (pp. 337–351). Springer.

Mazel-Cabasse, C. (2018). What (Sociotechnical) Resilience is Made of: Personal trajectories and earthquake risk mitigation in the San Francisco Bay Area. In S. Amir (Ed.), The Sociotechnical Constitution of Resilience: A New Perspective on. Governing Risk and Disaster. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mialet, H. (2012). Hawking Incorporated: Stephen Hawking and the Anthropology of the Knowing Subject. University of Chicago Press.

Mol, A. (2010). Actor-Network Theory: sensitive terms and enduring tensions. Kölner Zeitschrift Für Soziologie Und Sozialpsychologie, 50(1), 253–269.

Mol, A. (2013). Mind your plate! The ontonorms of Dutch dieting. Social Studies of Science, 43(3), 379–396.

Murakami, H. (2002). After the Quake. First Vintage International Edition.

Nigg, J. M., & Mileti, D. S. (1998). The Loma Prieta California Earthquake of October 17, 1989 - Recovery, Mitigation and Reconstruction (USGS Professional Paper No. 1553–D).

November, V. (2008). Spatiality of risk. Environment and Planning A, 40(7), 1523–1527.

November, V., Camacho-Hübner, E., & Latour, B. (2010). Entering a risky territory: Space in the age of digital navigation. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 28(4), 581–599.

November, V., Penelas, M., & Viot, P. (2009). When Flood Risk Transforms a Territory : the Lully Effect. Geography, 94, 189–197.
Oliver-Smith, A., & Hoffman, S. M. (1999). The Angry Earth. Disaster in Anthropological Prespective. (A. Oliver-Smith & S. M. Hoffman, Eds.). Routledge.

Perkins, J. B., Chakos, A., Olson, R. a., Tobin, L. T., & Turner, F. (2006). A Retrospective on the 1906 Earthquake's Impact on Bay Area and California Public Policy. Earthquake Spectra, 22(S2), S237.

Petersen, M. D., Frankel, A. D., Harmsen, S. C., Mueller, C. S., Haller, K. M., Wheeler, R. L., … Rukstales, K. S. (2008). Documentation for the 2008 Update of the United States National Seismic Hazard Maps. Unites States Geological Survey Open File Report, 2008-1128 (Version 1.1), 128.

Pollock, N., & Williams, R. (2010). E-Infrastructures: How do we know and understand them? Strategic ethnography and the biography of artefacts. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (Vol. 19).

Quenet, G. (2005). Les tremblements de terre aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. La naissance d'un risque. Seyssel, Champ Vallon.

Ribes, D., & Lee, C. P. (2010). Sociotechnical studies of cyberinfrastructure and e-research: Current themes and future trajectories. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 19(3–4), 231–244.

Riesch, H., & Nowotny, H. (2017). Interdisciplinarity Reloaded ? Drawing Lessons from "Citizen Science." In B. Prainsack, S. Frickel, & M. Albert (Eds.), Investigating Interdisciplinary Collaboration (pp. 194–212). Rutgers University Press. Retrieved from

Rosbrow, T. (2012). Murakami's After the Quake —The Writer as Waking Dreamer and Trauma Analyst. Psychoanalytic Dialogues: The International Journal of Relational Perspectives, 22(2), 215–227.

Schiewe, J. (2011). After Oakland Hills Fire, residents build of-the-wall Homes. Retrieved from

Selin, C., Rawlings, K. C., de Ridder-Vignone, K., Sadowski, J., Altamirano Allende, C., Gano, G., … Guston, D. H. (2016). Experiments in engagement: Designing public engagement with science and technology for capacity building. Public Understanding of Science.

Shineha, R., & Tanaka, M. (2017). Deprivation of Media Attention by Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident: Comparison Between National and Local Newspapers. In J. Ahn, F. Guarnieri, & K. Furuta (Eds.), Resilience: A New Paradigm of Nuclear Safety. From Accident Mitigation to Resilient Society Facing Extreme Situations. (pp. 111–125). Springer.

Slater, D., Keiko, N., & Kindstrand, L. (2012). Social Media, Information and Political Activism in Japan's 3.11 Crisis. The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 10(24).

Star, S. L., & Griesemer, J. (1989). Institutional Ecology, "Translation", and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907-1939. Social Studies of Sciences, 19(3), 387–420.

Stark, P. B., Saltelli, A., Guimarães, Â., & Eds, P. (2016). Pay No Attention to the Model Behind the Curtain To appear in Significant Digits : Responsible use of quantitative Information , 1–20.

Stengers, I., & Latour, B. (2009). Le sphinx de l'œuvre. In Les différents modes d'existence: Suivi de Du mode d'existence de l'œuvre à faire (pp. 1–75). Paris: Prese Universitaires de France.

Strong, T. (2008). A Review of Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison ' s Objectivity. The Weekly Qualitative Report, 1(10), 62–66.

Tierney, K. J. (1995). Social Aspects of the Northridge Earthquake (No. #225).

Tobriner, S. (2006). Bracing for Disaster. Earthquake-Resistant Architecture and Engineering in San Francisco, 1838-1933. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

Traweek, S. (2013). Privileged Science, Citizen Science, and Radiation in Japan and the US: Exposure, Outsourcing, Secrecy, and Un/Authorized Knowing. In An STS Forum on Fukushima.

Tubbesing, S., & Mileti, D. S. (1994). The Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake of October 17, 1989 - Loss Estimation and Procedure. Washington. Retrieved from

USGS. (1999). Earthquake Probabilities in the San Francisco Bay Region : 2000 to 2030 — A Summary of Findings.

USGS. (2003). Earthquake Probabilities in the San Francisco Bay Region: 2002- 2031.

Vincent, C. (2017, December 29). En 2018, vous ne verrez plus le réchauff