Handle with Care : Digital Citizen Science and Data Feminism in the Anthro-Capitalocene
Whitlock, Kathryn G
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This thesis examines the citizen science project and real-time online database eButterfly to investigate the limits and potential of digital citizen science as participatory media, and in particular, eButterfly’s relation to issues of diversifying participation and epistemologies of knowledge. I scrutinize the ways in which eButterfly approaches the promises of Web 2.0: to democratize media; diversify participation; and to encourage individual participation as well as collaboration. I connect critiques of eButterfly’s position in a participatory culture to feminist approaches to data and visual culture of data to examine how eButterfly reifies modes of science that favor reason over emotion and reinscribes anthropocentric hierarchies that place humans over non-humans. I critically examine eButterfly’s data map and use data feminists’ proposal of elevating emotion in data visualization to draw out the ways in which eButterfly’s data map fails to affectively relay the importance of butterfly conservation. Finally, I elaborate on the ways in which eButterfly encourages harmful forms of surveillance that end up compromising the safety of butterflies. I connect eButterfly to a speculative ethics of care in order to understand how butterflies can be better cared for in a world that needs to conserve them. I use a speculative ethics of care approach to reframing care by prioritizing more-than-human worlds over the human. I argue that eButterfly remains entangled in a system that seeks to exploit animal bodies and hinders this citizen scientific project’s ability to engage in ethical treatment and care of butterflies and the environment.