This week I joined colleagues in the Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) Network on a panel called “Adding the Citizen Voice: Participatory Socio-Scientific Policymaking” in Boston at the annual AAAS meeting. This was a panel of practitioners representing international and U.S. perspectives who presented motivations, methods, tools, and results from specific local, national, and global citizen consultations held on issues such as climate and energy policy, asteroid detection and defense, and nuclear waste siting. After the presentation we got to hear from attendees who brainstormed and recommend strategies, challenges, and opportunities for increasing the citizen voice in socio-scientific policymaking.
Here’s a new review of the book on the recent World Wide View on Biodiversity project in the Journal of Public Deliberation from a former collaborator from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Nicely done, Desiree!
I travelled to Trondheim Norway in June to give a paper at the Social Construction of Technology Coming of Age: New Challenges and Opportunities Ahead workshop hosted by Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Centre for Technology and Society, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture. Organisers: Professor Vivian A. Lagesen and Professor Knut H. Sørensen.
Science and technology studies (STS) scholars claim that we live with the technological systems today that we, through a series of individual and collective choices, have wrought. However, save for recent public kerfuffles over GMO foods and BSE in Europe, most of us don’t take part in political activities that address the accretion of technologies in our lives, much less technology’s internal logic that has us all updating software, waiting for traffic lights, and going about our business as drone planes take aim in Afghanistan. In this light, the assertion that collective intentionality governs technology is troubling. This paper explores a foundational metaphor of how crowds in society make technology: Lewis Mumford’s concept of the megamachine, or dynamic, regimented human capacities driving sociotechnological achievement. I ask whether constructivist approaches in STS square with Mumford’s metaphor. I examine the megamachine’s component parts in relation to two pivotal works that characterize the impact of collective capacities on society and in turn, socio-technical arrangements: Bruno Latour’s Pasteurization of France and Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power. I provide a structured commentary on sociotechnical models (collective capacities and actants) and processes for transformation (innovation and abduction) in Mumford, Latour, and Canetti, accounting for power dynamics, the material, and the drive for endless and accelerated progress that connects these two. The resulting model of a “soft” megamachine suggests an alternative approach to the design and practice of technology assessment and a lens through which to view contemporary network society.