Co-creation of legitimacy, legitimacy of co-creation - double remedy or double crisis?
Location Bowland Hall Main Room
Date and Start Time 27 Jul, 2018 at 16:00
Sessions 1


  • Jeremias Herberg (Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies) email
  • Giulia Molinengo (Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies) email

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Short abstract

In between academic and democratic institutions, cross-cutting collectives engage in 'co-creation': they collaboratively create shared problematics of politics and research. The panel discusses how co-creation is transforming or perpetuating legitimacy crises in academia and democracy.

Long abstract

While the legitimacy of academic and democratic institutions is crumbling, cross-cutting collectives engage in what can be coined as 'co-creation': they collaboratively create shared problematics of politics and research. Does co-creation represent a countervailing force against legitimacy crises in democracy and academia? This panel discusses the mutual structuration of co-creation and legitimacy, while accounting symmetrically for promises and pitfalls.

Co-creation is a risky endeavor. On the one hand, when elected politicians are discredited, or when expert knowledge is questioned, collaborative encounters may represent a double remedy: a chance to legitimize academic and democratic institutions, and to forge collaborative arenas. Methodical trade-offs remain: Which co-creative practices to endorse in order to gain legitimacy? On the other hand, the practice of explicating tacit expectations expedites the assignment of legitimacy between citizens, politicians and scholars. This can further mutual distrust or sideline democratic forms of legitimization. Hence, pre-existing legitimacy crises reflect back on co-creative endeavors. This amounts to a double crisis of legitimacy, and raises a dilemma: When mutual trust between civic, political or academic actors is crumbling, on which grounds can they collectively stand-in for the legitimacy of co-creation?

Affecting preexisting institutions and boundary-spanning collectives, the promises and pitfalls of co-creation finally challenge the STS community along symmetric lines: academic and political legitimacies can be criticized, explored or reconfigured together with the legitimacies of public engagement. This panel invites scholars and practitioners to practically, analytically and politically engage with the co-creation of legitimacy and the legitimacy of co-creation.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


"Epistemic participation" - co-creation of legitimate scientific knowledge and policy under the condition of extreme uncertainty

Author: Werner Reichmann (University of Konstanz) email
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Short abstract

In this paper, I use the case of economic policy to analyze the epistemic and organizational strategies to co-create legitimate scientific knowledge and legitimate democratic political power under the condition of extreme uncertainty.

Long abstract

Economic forecasters produce scientific knowledge that is special in several respects. The most important one is that their knowledge about the economic future - having in mind that the economy is largely non-ergodic, transmutable, and undetermined (Davidson 1996). The economic future cannot be "known" in conventional ways, it is not accessible empirically, and there are hardly any (known) fixed mechanisms underlying the economic development. The future is totally uncertain. Thus, economic forecasters have to work more to legitimate their knowledge than other scientists.

The extreme uncertainty of the economic future means that being engaged in economic policy is permanently "driving in the fog" (interviewee quote). To legitimate economic policy decisions and acts, policy makers try to base them on scientific knowledge. They use forecasts to do so.

Economic forecasters and economic policy have designed a special strategy of co-creating legitimate scientific knowledge and legitimate political decisions, one I call "epistemic participation" (Reichmann 2013, 2018). Forecasters are embedded in a network together with policy-makers. It is an "epistemic network" as the forecasters want the others to actively co-create the forecasts. In this sense, forecasters give them the opportunity to participate in the epistemic process of forecasting - this is why I call it "epistemic participation".

Drawing on empirical data gathered in German-speaking countries I analyze two questions connected with "epistemic participation": How is "epistemic participation" increasing the social legitimation of uncertain scientific knowledge? What are the democratic problems of the close process of the interactual co-creation of legitimate economic policy?

Meaningful co-creation and collaboration: how high do the stakes have to be?

Author: Rebecca Freeth (Leuphana University) email
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Short abstract

Do crises of legitimacy create high enough stakes for individuals to attempt the difficult work of meaningful co-creation? This paper considers collaborative experiences in South Africa and Germany and looks at conditions that fuel co-creation of knowledge towards more sustainable futures.

Long abstract

This paper explores micro practices of co-creation projects in South Africa and Germany through the eyes of an STS researcher who is both an implicated actor and embedded observer.

In South Africa, post-apartheid identity politics often serve as a basis for granting or questioning legitimacy. South Africans find themselves cast as il/legitimate because of their 'race', gender, generation, or class. Without legitimacy, one loses voice. In a relatively young democracy, voice matters. Within this large contextual frame, there is a fine-grained story of co-creating scenarios about the future of food. The scenarios exercise convened policy makers, activists, academics and business people from across the food chain. In the process of co-creating scenarios, participants were also trading legitimacy. Observation and interviews demonstrated that legitimacy was found by some and lost by others, (re)claimed and disclaimed. This was an example of high stakes collaboration, because of ever-present hunger and malnutrition, and because participants risked losing legitimacy for being co-opted through their engagement.

In Germany, there are more resources and less inequality, and democracy is largely taken for granted. There appears to be less at stake, even in the scientific field of sustainability. If co-creation of knowledge is a more difficult approach to research, and the stakes are lower, why collaborate? Legitimacy is one significant reason; the drive towards inter- and transdisciplinary research can be interpreted as responsive to a crisis of scientific legitimacy. What does this imply for meaningful co-creation for sustainability in Germany and other parts of north-west Europe?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.