, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 649-666
Date: 19 Aug 2011

Technologies of Democracy: Experiments and Demonstrations

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Abstract

Technologies of democracy are instruments based on material apparatus, social practices and expert knowledge that organize the participation of various publics in the definition and treatment of public problems. Using three examples related to the engagement of publics in nanotechnology in France (a citizen conference, a series of public meetings, and an industrial design process), the paper argues that Science and Technology Studies provide useful tools and methods for the analysis of technologies of democracy. Operations of experiments and public demonstrations can be described, as well as controversies about technologies of democracy giving rise to counter-experiments and counter-demonstrations. The political value of the analysis of public engagement lies in the description of processes of stabilization of democratic orders and in the display of potential alternative political arrangements.