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Knut Lundmark, Meteors and an Early Swedish Crowdsourcing Experiment

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Johan Kärnfelt
Publicerad i Annales of Science
Volym 71
Nummer/häfte 4
Sidor 449-473
Publiceringsår 2014
Publicerad vid Institutionen för litteratur, idéhistoria och religion
Sidor 449-473
Språk en
Länkar dx.doi.org/10.1080/00033790.2013.82...
Ämnesord Knut Lundmark, meteors, crowdsourcing
Ämneskategorier Vetenskapshistoria

Sammanfattning

Mid twentieth century meteor astronomy demanded the long-term compilation of observations made by numerous individuals over an extensive geographical area. Such a massive undertaking obviously required the participation of more than just professional astronomers, who often sought to expand their ranks through the use of amateurs that had a basic grasp of astronomy as well as the night sky, and were thus capable of generating first-rate astronomical reports. When, in the 1920s, renowned Swedish astronomer Knut Lundmark turned his attention to meteor astronomy, he was unable to rely even upon this solution. In contrast to many other countries at the time, Sweden lacked an organized amateur astronomy and thus contained only a handful of competent amateurs. Given this situation, Lundmark had to develop ways of engaging the general public in assisting his efforts. To his advantage, he was already a well-established public figure who had published numerous popular science articles and held talks from time to time on the radio. During the 1930s, this prominence greatly facilitated his launching of a crowdsourcing initiative for the gathering of meteor observations. This paper consists of a detailed discussion concerning the means by which Lundmark's initiative disseminated astronomical knowledge to the general public and encouraged a response that might directly contribute to the advancement of science. More precisely, the article explores the manner in which he approached the Swedish public, the degree to which that public responded and the extent to which his efforts were successful. The primary aim of this exercise is to show that the apparently recent Internet phenomenon of ‘crowdsourcing’, especially as it relates to scientific research, actually has a pre-Internet history that is worth studying. Apart from the fact that this history is interesting in its own right, knowing it can provide us with a fresh vantage point from which to better comprehend and appreciate the success of present-day crowdsourcing projects.

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