Mycoremediation: the making and unmaking of a citizen science, Aug 30 – Sept 2, 2017

MycoRemediation Petri Fail“Mycoremediation: the making and unmaking of a citizen science,” on the panel, “Citizen Science I: Co-Constructing Citizen Science” @ the Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), Boston, MA, Aug 30 – Sept 2, 2017

In this presentation, I look at how the vision of mycoremediation–that is, the bioremediation of toxins by fungi–has fared among amateur applied mycologists. The idea has circulated for sometime among academic mycologists but it found a popular audience in Paul Stamets’s book Mycelium Running: how mushrooms can help save the world (2005). During my field work among such do-it-yourself mycologists in the SF Bay Area, I found that this vision of a heroic, grassroots citizen science that can heal the earth through human-fungal collaboration was gradually replaced by disillusionment and doubt about this technique.

In this paper, I explore how we might understand this technological vision as scholars. Participants’ ideas about what citizen science can and should be (I.e., dispersed, accessible) reveal a vision of science that is participatory and biocentric. Drawing on Jamie Lorimer’s work, mycoremediation illustrates the tension that can emerge in citizen science between the affective and imaginative force of its ideal and the satisfactions of mastery, and its social recognition, in its implementation. Situated at the boundaries between amateur, speculative, and professional science, mycoremediation sheds light on these competing scientific modes.