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Participating Despite Questions: Toward a More Confident Participatory Technology Assessment

Commentary on: “Questioning ‘Participation’: A Critical Appraisal of its Conceptualization in a Flemish Participatory Technology Assessment”


While the important challenges of public deliberations on emerging technologies are crucial to keep in mind, this paper argues that scholars and practitioners have reason to be more confident in their performance of participatory technology assessments (pTA). Drawing on evidence from the 2008 National Citizens’ Technology Forum (NCTF) conducted by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University, this paper describes how pTA offers a combination of intensive and extensive qualities that are unique among modes of engagement. In the NCTF, this combination led to significant learning and opinion changes, based on what can be characterized as a high-quality deliberation. The quality of the anticipatory knowledge required to address emerging technologies is always contested, but pTAs can be designed with outcomes in mind—especially when learning is understood as an outcome.

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  1. Personal communication from Mark Philbrick.


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Correspondence to David H. Guston.

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Guston, D.H. Participating Despite Questions: Toward a More Confident Participatory Technology Assessment. Sci Eng Ethics 17, 691–697 (2011).

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