Publics in the Making: Mediating Different Methods of Engagement and the Publics These Construct

Commentary on: “Technologies of Democracy: Experiments and Demonstrations”


The potential for public engagement to democratise science has come under increasing scrutiny amid concerns that conflicting motivations have led to confusion about what engagement means to those who mediate science and publics. This raises important yet relatively unexplored questions regarding how publics are constituted by different forms of engagement used by intermediary scholars and other actors. It is possible to identify at least two possible ‘rationalities of mediation’ that mobilise different versions of the public and the roles they are assumed to play, as ‘citizens’ or ‘users’, in discussions around technology. However, combinations of rationalities are found in practice and these have significant implications for the ‘new’ scientific democracy.

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    One notable exception is the recent paper by Phil (Macnaghten et al. 2005), ‘Nanotechnology, governance, and public deliberation: what role for the social sciences’.


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Correspondence to Alison Mohr.

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Mohr, A. Publics in the Making: Mediating Different Methods of Engagement and the Publics These Construct. Sci Eng Ethics 17, 667–672 (2011).

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  • Public engagement
  • Democracy
  • Mediation
  • Dialogue
  • Elicitation