Science Fiction Film & Television

Citizens of the future

Science fiction and the games of citizen science

Science Fiction Film & Television (2021), 14, (2), 115–144.


Over the last decade, a variety of ‘citizen science’ projects have turned to video games and other tools of gamification to enrol participants and to encourage public engagement with scientific research questions. This article examines the significance of sf in the field of citizen science, focusing on projects such as Eyewire, Be a Martian!, Sea Hero Quest, Play to Cure: Genes in Space, Forgotten Island and the ‘Project Discovery’ experiments in EVE Online. The sf stories that frame these projects often allegorise the neoliberal assumptions and immaterial labour practices of citizen science, even while seeming to hide or disguise them. At the same time, the fictional frames enable players to imagine social and technical innovations that, while not necessarily achievable in the present, nevertheless point to a future of democratic science, social progress and responsible innovation - blips of utopian thought from the zones of crowdsourced labour.

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Author details

Milburn, Colin

Wills, Melissa