From chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) rotting the brains of retired National Football League (NFL) players to environmental degradation accelerating the extinction rates of nonhuman life forms, a multitude of academic disciplines in the life sciences find themselves on the frontlines of various crises. Without any type of legal or disciplinary power to change the behavior of people in the “real world,” these academic disciplines frame themselves in a continual battle, constantly attempting to overcome the barriers between the production of their knowledge and the implementation of said knowledge. In the world of birds, however, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a leading institute in ornithology, has developed an educational program built on modern “citizen-science projects.” Cornell claims that these citizen-science projects have the capabilities to inform and mobilize people to act on behalf of bird populations, overcoming knowledge’s production and implementation divide. Using a theoretical framework of Michel Foucault’s “biopower,” this I.S. performs a case study on one of Cornell’s most popular citizen-science projects, eBird (http://ebird.org). Through the methodological use of Max Weber’s “ideal type,” I conducted 12 interviews with some of eBird’s most prolific users, exploring how the project has shaped their lives and views of the world. Through these interviews, this I.S. found that Cornell exercises its power through the infiltration of the self’s values and desires, simultaneously ingraining values into the self to align with the academic discipline of ornithology’s conservation mission. In its totality, eBird encapsulates a new political technique with the potential to be applied in a variety of settings. This I.S. concludes with a warning, however, that the existence of political power inside and outside of “reality” paves the way for the reemergence of a new sovereignty, drawing lines within various pockets of life.


Tierney, Thomas


Sociology and Anthropology


Education | Human Geography | Nature and Society Relations | Science and Technology Studies | Sociology | Theory, Knowledge and Science


Human Geography, Citizen Science, Foucault, Sociology, Weber

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis


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