Opening up the participation laboratory: the co-creation of publics and futures in upstream participation.

Anna Krzywoszynska, Alastair Buckley, Prue Chiles, Nicky Gregson, Helen Holmes, Jose Maywin, Matt Watson

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How to embed reflexivity in public participation in techno-science, and to open it up to the agency of publics, are key concerns in public participation debates. Particularly when dealing with upstream techno-sciences, there is a risk of engagements being limited to ‘laboratory experiments’, highly controlled and foreclosed by participation experts. In this paper we propose a way to open up the ‘participation laboratory’ by engaging localized, self-assembling publics in ways that respect and mobilize their ecologies of participation. Our innovative reflexive methodology introduced participatory methods to public engagement with upstream techno-science, with the public contributing to both the content and format of the project. This experience drew our attention to the largely overlooked issue of temporalities of participation, and the co-production of futures and publics in participation methodologies. We argue that many public participation methodologies are underpinned by the open futures model which imagines the future as a space of unrestrained creativity. We contrast it with the lived futures model typical of localized publics, which respects latency of materials and processes, but imposes limits on creativity. We argue that to continue being societally relevant and scientifically important, public participation methods should reconcile the open future of research with lived futures of localized publics.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience Technology and Human Values
Issue number5
Early online date11 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


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