Accepted Paper:

Why practices and atmospheres of participation matter: insights from a democratic experiment in distributed deliberative mapping  


Jason Chilvers (University of East Anglia)
Helen Pallett (University of East Anglia)
Rob Bellamy (University of Oxford)
Tom Hargreaves

Paper short abstract:

This paper advances STS approaches to experiments in democracy through making the normativities and atmospheres of participation a focus of experimental intervention. We reflect on a novel experiment in distributed deliberative mapping, where diverse collectives appraised sustainable energy futures.

Paper long abstract:

In response to claims that normativities of democracy have too often been taken for granted in STS, the construction, performance, technologisation and effects of 'democracy' itself is increasingly becoming an object of STS scholarship and intervention. While revealing the constructed nature of participation and the publics of science, these interpretive accounts have often failed to explore what this means for remaking the democratisation of science in practice. In this paper we address this imbalance, and advance reflexive and experimental STS approaches to participation, through making the normativities and atmospheres of democracy themselves a focus of experimental intervention and reflexive engagement. We reflect on a project where we have taken an established STS technology of participation called Deliberative Mapping - a multi-criteria options appraisal tool that adheres to a deliberative democratic model of democracy involving representative lay publics and professional experts - and experimented with performing the tool in alternative 'atmospheres of participation' established in already existing groups of activists, consumers and grassroots community innovators. Our analysis of the Distributed Deliberative Mapping (DDM) process, which involved these diverse groups in appraising sustainable energy futures in the UK, demonstrates how the normativities of democracy and actual material practices of participation matter in shaping outcomes of participatory experiments pertaining to technoscientific developments. Our reflective analysis of the DDM process also offers insights into how more reflexive and experimental approaches to participation and democracy might be taken forward in STS and beyond.

Panel E09
Experiments in democracy