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Friday, September 21, 2012

Expertise, Technologies and Ecologies of Participation

Abstract: In this presentation my particular focus is on ‘public participation expertise’, the rise of mediators as a new category of expert, and the ‘technologies of participation’ that they assemble. I explore these themes through drawing on my ongoing research in the British context, which goes back over a decade, working with mediators of public dialogue on science and technology (ranging from participatory practitioners in consultancies and NGOs through to academic social scientists, including STS scholars themselves) and engaging them in in-depth reflections on their participatory practices, forms of expertise, and wider networks. My analysis develops three key insights. First, public participation expertise is shown to be highly embodied and experiential in nature, defined by tensions between independence and intervention, and involving continual boundary work. Second, insights are provided into the processes of professionalization, institutionalization and infrastructural attachments which have led technologies of participation, in the British context at least, to become ‘locked in’ to a narrow trajectory or pathway of democratic engagement centered on micro-invited public dialogue that privileges innocent citizens. Third, emerging participatory experiments and alternative meanings of public dialogue not only question the stability of these ‘technologies’, they also suggest the need to move towards a more systemic perspective that better understands the complexities of interconnected and co-evolving ‘ecologies of participation’. In conclusion I reflect on the implications of this analysis for developing a wider and more reflexive programme of research into expertises and technologies of participation, that is also constructively critical in working interactively to build real-time and anticipatory reflection into the development of these emerging technologies. Bio: Jason Chilvers is a Lecturer based in the Science, Society and Sustainability (3S) Group at the School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia. His research focuses on relations between environment, science, policy and society, and spans studies of governance, appraisal, public understanding, and public participation in relation to science, technology and environmental risk issues. He has published widely on these themes in books, policy reports, and peer-reviewed international journals such as Science, Technology and Human Values, Environment and Planning A, Geoforum and the Journal of Risk Research. Jason recently directed an international ESRC seminar series on ‘Critical public engagement’ and has served as a member of the Royal Society Kohn Award Panel for Excellence in Engaging the Public with Science.

  • Location:
    BL4, Hauser Center Conference Room
  • Date:
    Friday, September 21, 2012
  • Time:
    2:00 PM

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