In the turn to a more critical and reflexive mode of research on public participation with science- related issues limited attention has been given to ‘public participation expertise’, the rise of mediators as a new category of expert, and the ‘technologies of participation’ that they assemble. Drawing on an in-depth study involving mediators of public dialogue on science and technology in the British context, this paper makes three key contributions to this emerging research area. First, it develops new understandings of public participation expertise as 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 professionalisation, institutionalisation and infrastructural attachments which have led technologies of participation to become ‘locked in’ to a narrow innovation pathway centred on invited-micro public dialogue that privileges innocent citizens. Third, alternative experiments and meanings of public dialogue question the stability of these participatory technologies and point towards a more systemic perspective that better understands diverse, interconnected and co-evolving ‘ecologies of participation’. The paper ends by reflecting on, and by considering possibilities for future research on, expertise and technologies of participation, ecologies of participation, and the ways in which they are governed.
Chilvers, J. (2012) Expertise, Technologies and Ecologies of Participation. 3S Working Paper 2012-17. Norwich: Science, Society and Sustainability Research Group.