Legitimation problems of participatory processes in technology assessment and technology policy

Poiesis and Praxis 9 (1-2):7-26 (2012)
Abstract
Since James Carroll (1971) made a strong case for “participatory technology”, scientists, engineers, policy-makers and the public at large have seen quite a number of different approaches to design and implement participatory processes in technology assessment and technology policy. As these participatory experiments and practices spread over the last two decades, one could easily get the impression that participation turned from a theoretical normative claim to a working practice that goes without saying. Looking beyond the well-known forerunners and considering the ambivalent experiences that have been made under different conditions in various places, however, the “if” and “how” of participation are still contested issues when questions of technology are on the agenda. Legitimation problems indicate that attempts to justify participation in a given case have not been entirely successful in the eyes of relevant groups among the sponsors, participants, organizers or observers. Legitimation problems of participatory processes in technology assessment and technology policy vary considerably, and they do so not only with the two domains and the ways of their interrelation or the specific features of the participatory processes. If we ask whether or not participation is seen as problematic in technology assessment and technology policy-making and in what sense it is being evaluated as problematic, then we find that the answer depends also on the approaches and criteria that have been used to legitimize or delegitimize the call for a specific design of participation
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