Futurescape City Tours at the 4S Making and Doing program

The Futurescape City Tours project is an entry in the new Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) Making and Doing program. The STS Making and Doing Program aims at encouraging 4S members to share scholarly practices of participation, engagement, and intervention in their fields of study. It highlights scholarly practices for producing and expressing STS knowledge and expertise that extend beyond the academic paper or book. The initiative seeks to improve the effectiveness and influence of STS scholarship beyond the field and/or to expand the modes of STS knowledge production.

We submitted the project under the Visual and Sensory Approaches category: STS projects that resulted in effective artistic creations, including those in audio-visual format or in public installations, exhibits, and performances.

Scientific and social assessment of emerging technologies at S.Net Conference


This week I presented in the “scientific and social assessment of emerging technologies for a sustainable society track” with colleagues at the S.Net Conference 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. My paper, “A Novel Architecture for Anticipatory Risk Assessment of Emerging Biotechnologies: the Building with Biology Case”,  reported preliminary results of research on public views about emerging biotechnologies focused on pilot events called  “Building with Biology” in eight U.S. Science Museums. Under a 3-year NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) Award #1421179 the project, entitled Multi-Site Public Engagement with Science – Synthetic Biology (MSPES), models a novel institutional and programmatic architecture for public deliberation about novel biotechnologies.

This exciting project catalyzes complex multi-directional exchange between publics and expert communities by convening conversations among scientists, engineers, and public audiences around the societal implications of engineering biology. There are eight pilot sites in 2015 and two hundred sites planned for the summer of 2016. The public views component of this research captures information about public responses, opinions, associations, and perceptions with respect to synthetic biology from publics that have come into contact with MSPES project activities.

I ask: What knowledge, awareness and understanding do publics develop about synthetic biology through their public engagement experiences in the MSPES project? What types of institutional, programmatic, and interpersonal relationships and interactions faciliate mutual exchange and learning about the societal context of this emerging area of biotechnology in expert and non-specialist publics?

ECAST report for NASA is released!

ecast-report-coverNASA HQ just published a press release announcing their collaboration with Experts and Citizens Assessing Science and Technology (ECAST) on the Asteroid Initiative. This report and the events that will follow over the next few months is the culmination of over two years of discussions, brainstorming and collaboration between our network and NASA administrators to design and execute two major full day public deliberations about the complexities of the science, technology and human expectations for the future paths the agency’s development and resources can take in the coming years. The report had its official release on October 1 in Washington DC in the New Tools of Science Policy Seminar entitled “From Asteroids to Oceans: Using public Engagement to Inform Policy Decisions” at the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes. Read the press release here and get the full report.

Cop21 Research at the United National General Assembly

2015-09-25 10.23.15 2015-09-26 15.16.04

This week I spent following representatives from Missions Publiques and the Danish Board of Technology Foundation as they met with United Nations delegates, NGO representatives and others to report the results of the recent World Wide Views on Climate and Energy citizen report in advance of the Cop21 meeting in Paris. There was a side event at the UN where the official briefing took place, but all the real action happened at the nearby Le Pain Quotidien!


My research on the impact of dissemination of this information to try and influence the climate agreement to take the views of global publics into account is supported by a sub award by the KR Foundation to The Danish Board of Technology and the Loka Institute to evaluate the impacts of this latest global citizen dialog on policy networks.

New chapter on participatory visual and digital methods

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 6.05.31 PMAline Gubrium, Krista Harper, and Marty Otañez have a new book out called Participatory Visual and Digital Research in Action. The book features 16 original articles, a companion to the authors’ Participatory Visual and Digital Methods, that illustrate how innovative visual and digital research techniques are being used in various field projects in health care, environmental policy, urban planning, education and youth development, and heritage management settings. The book also has a companion website.

Cynthia Selin and I have a chapter in here on our recent research collaboration on the Futurescape City Tours. The Futurescape City Tours experiment with new digital and visual methods to enhance the quality and depth of citizen engagement with the social and political dimensions of emerging technologies. By drawing in diverse viewpoints to reimagine sociotechnical pathways, our goal is to amplify citizens’ voices and foster a critical gaze. This case, a large-scale public deliberation created by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University, involved designing and conducting engagement experiences that invited city residents to join a walking tour where they reflect on the urban environment up close, interact with stakeholders and experts, capture their experiences using photography and examine those images in the context of past, present and future visions in image-based deliberative sessions. As a research project, Futurescape City Tours seek to better understand the value and functionality of public engagement activities that integrate diverse stakeholders and publics, tend to the politics of place, rigorously trigger imagination, and creatively use multi-media tools.


Futures special issue on inaugural emerge conference

Several articles, including one I wrote called “Starting with Universe: Buckminster Fuller’s Design Science Now,” are now available in a Futures Special Section on Mediating Futures; Guest Edited by Cynthia Selin.

The special section collects different research perspectives on the inaugural Emerge: Artists + Scientists Reinvent the Future. This was an unparalleled campus–wide event uniting artists, engineers, bio scientists, social scientists, story–tellers and designers to build, draw, write and rethink the future of the human species and the environments that we share.

Selin introduces the special section this way:

Emerge: Artists and Scientists Redesign the Future, hosted by Arizona State University in 2012, united artists, engineers, bioscientists, social scientists, storytellers and designers to build, draw, write and play with the future. Over three days, and in nine different workshops, participants created games, products, monuments, images and stories in an effort to reveal the texture and feel of emergent futures. The Emerge workshops drew from a burgeoning field of future-oriented methods that infuse art, design and information technology into the development and delivery of scenarios and design fictions – a constellation of practices I call “mediated scenarios”. This introduction and the articles in this special issue, work to make sense of these emerging practices, and of Emerge itself, in order to develop appreciation of this rising genre. In doing so, the papers in this issue ask critical questions about the nature of these novel forms of foresight practice and investigate the trade-offs and potencies involved in the workings of mediated scenarios.

Global leaders from industry and creative practice joined ASU faculty and talented students for hands-on workshops as well as the Digital Culture Festival which included exhibits, interactive shows and live presentations. ASU and Emerge featured a line-up of world class keynote speakers for the conference-closing Keynotes Session including noted writers, designers and futurists such as Stewart Brand (The Whole Earth Discipline), Bruce Sterling (The Difference Engine, Beyond the Beyond), Sherry Turkle (Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other), Bruce Mau (Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, Massive Change Network), Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Remade) and ASU President Michael Crow.

Here was our public presentation on the Starting with Universe workshop themes delivered by my long-time collaborator, David McConville, Board Chair of the Buckminster Fuller Institute.


New chapter on public engagement in international environmental policy

governing_biodiversityUntil the spring of 2012, many of the members of the network Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) had been (for the most part) merely talking about how to make a decentralized model for participatory Technology Assessment possible. It was that spring that we learned that the Danish Board of Technology would again be hosting a World Wide Views global deliberation to provide citizen input into the United Nations Cop11, Convention on Biological Diversity. By the fall, ECAST had managed to organize four sites in the United States to hold this one day meeting, recruiting 100 participants at each site.

There is now a new book out chronicling the experiences of site hosts and researchers who were involved in the event. Governing Biodiversity Through Democratic Deliberation focuses on the intersection of global biodiversity policy and the promise of deliberative democracy.

I and the Director of the Forums program at the Museum of Science Boston, David Sittenfeld, have a chapter in this one entitled “Amplifying deliberative results to access policy networks: the role of informal science education institutions.” In it we argue that deliberative mechanisms like WWViews on Biodiversity involve only a small number of citizens in questions about the global issues that these initiatives address. In response to these concerns and recognizing that even successful dissemination such as the experience at COP 11 is narrowly focused, additional efforts to ‘amplify’ wider consideration of the WWViews themes and the results of the formal dialog events cast a wider net to involve diverse networks, stakeholders and citizens. ‘Amplification’ encompasses efforts to communicate the results of the WWViews citizen deliberation to decision makers and to engage a broader public in activities that expand popular understanding and debate about biodiversity governance.

We derive a notion of how to identify important variables that help or hinder amplification from parallel definitions of contextually situated science and social values. We use a recent policy assessment of the efficacy of climate data in decision making that offers a definition of ‘usable science’ (Pielke, Jr. et al, 2010) as data that can be taken advantage of by decision makers because it is well situated in an institutional context. We posit that social values must also be rendered ‘usable’ in similar ways (Worthington et al, 2012: 49). We pair this concept of contextually situated scientific knowledge and social values with the theory of deliberative systems (Dryzek, 2009) as the framework for our analysis of the Informal Science Education Insitutions’ (ISEs) role in the WWViews event. This systemic view is built upon a theoretical synthesis of the concepts of ‘amplification’ through the dialog event and companion activities as a function ‘civic capacity building.’


Dryzek, J.S. (2009) ‘Democratization as Deliberative Capacity Building’, Comparative Political Studies, vol. 42, no. 11, pp. 1379–1402.

Pielke, Jr., R., Sarewitz, D. and Dilling, L. (2010) ‘Usable Science: A Handbook for Science Policy Decision Makers’ at http://cstpr.colorado.edu/sparc/outreach/sparc_handbook/brochure.pdf.

Worthington, R., Cavalier, D., Farooque, M., Gano, G., Geddes, H., Sander, S., Sittenfeld, D. and Tomblin, D. (2012) ‘Technology assessment and public participation: From TA to pTA’, Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) report at http://ecastnetwork.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/ecast-report-ta-to-pta-rev1.pdf.

Kickoff announcement of US participation in World Wide Views on Climate and Energy


Next week I will join other members of ECAST at the Consortium for Science Policy and Outcomes at ASU’s Washington DC office to discuss US participation in the World Wide Views on Climate and Energy citizen dialog set for June 6, 2015. At the New Tools for Science Policy seminar, Bridging the Democracy Gap: World Wide Views on Climate and Energy, we will talk about plans for coordinating efforts across five U.S. sites: Boston, Ma; Phoenix, AZ; Ft. Collins, CO; St. Paul, MN; and Huston, TX (tentative participation).

On June 6, 100 citizens representing the demographic diversity of the host countries will attend daylong meetings at sites around the world. Participants will receive the same balanced and vetted information about issues on the agenda for the December 2015 UN climate summit (UNFCCC) in Paris, and discuss these issues at tables with 8 participants and a facilitator.  Their views on these issues will be published online and presented at both preparatory meetings and at the climate summit.

Participate in online forum to Inform NASA’s Asteroid Initiative

The next phase of Informing NASA’s Asteroid Initiative is an open invite to participate and weigh in on the questions considered by the in-person and online forums.

This phase is open now, and anyone can participate. Visit ecastonline.consider.it to get started.

Why participate?

“Public engagement is crucial to the effective development of science and technology policy,” said David Guston, Co-director of the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes (CSPO), one of the founding members of ECAST. “It is essential to consider input from diverse constituents, and nowhere are citizens’ values, hopes and dreams more important than in the future of the planet and the future of humans in space.”