Democracies of controlled experimentation? The emerging landscape of social laboratories

Verena Kontschieder (Technical University of Munich)
Kyriaki Papageorgiou (ESADE / Harvard Kennedy School)
Franziska Engels (WZB Berlin Social Science Center)
Sebastian Pfotenhauer (Technical University of Munich)
Faraday Complex Seminar Room 1
Start time:
27 July, 2018 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

We interrogate the emergent new landscape of "labs" across diverse social and political settings, incl. design labs, change labs, policy labs, and living labs. We explore the epistemic, empirical and political terrain in which these labs are mobilized, and associated promises and governance issues.

Long abstract:

Recently, the notion of "laboratories" has gained wider prominence far beyond the traditional confines of S&T. From design labs, change labs, urban labs, and living labs; to policy labs, social labs, and social innovation labs; all the way to do-tanks, test-beds, and hives - lab-like approaches are being proposed and deployed across diverse social and political settings. These labs promise to tackle social problems more inclusively, playfully, innovatively, and effectively, while at the same time invoking elements of scientific rigor and controlled experimentation. Moreover, they frequently emphasize the possibility to contain and test new ideas, objects, or living arrangements in safe spaces before releasing them onto society at large. This track aims to put the emergent new landscape of "social labs" front and center. Building on established STS traditions in lab studies, technical democracy, public engagement, and the politics of innovation, we aim to explore the epistemic, empirical and political terrain in which these labs are mobilized. We especially invite papers asking: •How are laboratories deployed across diverse settings? •What is the promise of lab approaches? Which/whose problems are they supposed to solve? •How are social labs envisioned to function? Which instruments and practices do they deploy? •How do labs contest/reconfigure/stabilize socio-technical orders? •What forms of expertise to these labs use? How are they governed? How legitimized? •Which forms of participation do (or don't) they mobilize? •Which conceptual and methodological resources from STS can we bring to bear on the phenomenon?