Michael Scroggins’ “Ignoring Ignorance: Notes on Pedagogical Relationships in Citizen Science”

My personal desire to question deduction’s seduction has motivated my search for the truth in many different places. Although some avenues of inquiry have proffered little, I was excited to find Michael Scroggins’ “Ignoring Ignorance: Notes on Pedagogical Relationships in Citizen Science” in Engaging Science, Technology, and Society 3 (2017).

It is high time that we let go of our adoration of “knowledge” and the high price that that form of worship requires and look more honestly and empirically at the world. The following quotation depicts the value that can be gained by problematizing knowledge and ignorance from Scroggins’ refreshingly new angle.

Theoretically, this article seeks to broaden the conceptualization of ignorance within STS by drawing on a line of theory developed in the philosophy and anthropology of education to argue that ignorance can be productively conceptualized as a state of possibility and that doing so can enable more democratic forms of citizen science. In contrast to conceptualizations of ignorance as a lack, lag, or manufactured product, ignorance is developed here as both the opening move in scientific inquiry and the common ground over which that inquiry proceeds.Scroggins 2017
My hope is that this article is the start of a new approach that will result in more realistic appraisals. This ethnographic report of the struggles of citizen scientists comes from the field of STS (Science, Technology & Society) but do not assume that such an approach is limited to the “tech world”. We can attribute much of these first steps to Columbia Universtiy it seems. Scroggins, a Columbia graduate is building his argument upon Varenne and Firestein, two Columbia faculty from two different colleges who are working from the same idea yet from very different perspectives. Whereas Varenne’s search for value in ignorance is grounded in Ranciere’s philosophy of education, Firestein’s approach is grounded in the philosophy of science. Regardless of their varying starting points, we can see that the value of this idea is richest in its application as Scroggins has so eloquently illustrated.

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