Machineries for Making Publics: Inscribing and De-scribing Publics in Public Engagement
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This paper investigates the dynamic and performative construction of publics in public engagement exercises. In this investigation, we, on the one hand, analyse how public engagement settings as political machineries frame particular kinds of roles and identities for the participating publics in relation to ‘the public at large’. On the other hand, we study how the participating citizens appropriate, resist and transform these roles and identities, and how they construct themselves and the participating group in relation to wider publics. The empirical basis of our argument is a discussion of four different kinds of participation events in Austria. Building on these observations we develop conclusions about the public up-take of public participation in technoscience and the role of public engagement in current techno-political cultures.
KeywordsParticipation Public engagement Publics Techno-political cultures Austria
This paper builds on research conducted in the framework of the projects: “Evaluation of the discourse day on genetic diagnosis 2002”, funded by the Austrian genome research programme GEN-AU; “Challenges of Biomedicine. Socio-Cultural Contexts, European Governance, and Bioethics”, funded by the European Commission in the 6th framework programme, Contract No. SAS6-CT-2003-510238; and “Let’s talk about GOLD. Analysing the interactions between genome research(ers) and the public as a learning process”, funded by the Austrian genome research programme GEN-AU as an ELSA project. Project leader or coordinator for all three projects was Ulrike Felt. The authors acknowledge the contribution of all colleagues involved in these projects, both as collaborators and advisors. A prior version of this paper was presented in an organised session at the annual conference of the Society for the Social Studies of Science in Washington 2009. We would like to thank the session organisers Regula Burri and Brice Laurent, as well as the other participants and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticism and suggestions. Martha Kenney’s help in doing the final language editing is also highly appreciated.
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