Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

Special Seminars

“Technoscientific Challenges, Future Making, and Narrative Geographies”
Ulrike Felt
April 2, 2013, 4:00pm-6:00pm
Littauer 382, Harvard Kennedy School, 79 JFK Street

Abstract: Over the past decades, we have witnessed increasing attention devoted to anticipating, transforming, and/or controlling technoscientific futures. More than ever, these futures play a politically strategic role, not only in arguing for and justifying technoscientific choices but also in requesting compliance and support from citizens. With futures becoming a key-actor in contemporary governance of technoscience, the production and circulation of these scenarios play a pivotal role in power relations and in ordering contemporary societies. My talk will explore future-making practices related to three different technoscientific areas in the Austrian context: obesity, nanotechnology, and sustainability. Using this comparative lens and developing the notion of “narrative geographies” will allow us to capture (1) how, in each “socio–epistemic region” the future gets imagined, narrated and practiced quite differently; and (2) how place matters, as different technopolitical cultures draw upon different narrative repertoires and traditions.

“Technologies and Ecologies of Participation”
Jason Chilvers
September 21, 2012, 2:00pm-4:00pm
BL4, Hauser Conference Room, Harvard Kennedy School

Abstract: In this presentation my particular focus is on ‘public participation expertise’, the rise of mediators as a new category of expert, and the ‘technologies of participation’ that they assemble. I explore these themes through drawing on my ongoing research in the British context, which goes back over a decade, working with mediators of public dialogue on science and technology (ranging from participatory practitioners in consultancies and NGOs through to academic social scientists, including STS scholars themselves) and engaging them in in-depth reflections on their participatory practices, forms of expertise, and wider networks. My analysis develops three key insights. First, public participation expertise is shown to be highly embodied and experiential in nature, defined by tensions between independence and intervention, and involving continual boundary work. Second, insights are provided into the processes of professionalization, institutionalization and infrastructural attachments which have led technologies of participation, in the British context at least, to become ‘locked in’ to a narrow trajectory or pathway of democratic engagement centered on micro-invited public dialogue that privileges innocent citizens. Third, emerging participatory experiments and alternative meanings of public dialogue not only question the stability of these ‘technologies’, they also suggest the need to move towards a more systemic perspective that better understands the complexities of interconnected and co-evolving ‘ecologies of participation’. In conclusion I reflect on the implications of this analysis for developing a wider and more reflexive programme of research into expertises and technologies of participation, that is also constructively critical in working interactively to build real-time and anticipatory reflection into the development of these emerging technologies.