Opening Up the Participation Laboratory – new article in Science, Technology and Human Values

Online here:

Pre-press version here

This article, lead authored by Anna Krzywoszynska with me along with the rest of the Solar Futures team, engages debates on public participation in ‘upstream’ techno-scientific developments. It draws on the our projects long term participatory process with residents of a small town to envisage energy futures. It is published online today in the journal Science, Technology and Human Values.

Krzywoszynska, M Watson, A Buckley, P Chiles, N Gregson, H Holmes, A J Mawyin (2018) Opening up the participation laboratory: the co-creation of publics and futures in upstream participation Science Technology and Human Values  OnlineFirst January 2011



How to embed reflexivity in public participation in techno-science and to open it up to the agency of publics are key concerns in current debates. There is a risk that engagements become limited to “laboratory experiments,” highly controlled and foreclosed by participation experts, particularly in upstream techno-sciences. In this paper, we propose a way to open up the “participation laboratory” by engaging localized, self-assembling publics in ways that respect and mobilize their ecologies of participation. Our innovative reflexive methodology introduced participatory methods to public engagement with upstream techno-science, with the public contributing to both the content and format of the project. Reflecting on the project, we draw attention to the largely overlooked issue of temporalities of participation, and the co-production of futures and publics in participation methodologies. We argue that many public participation methodologies are underpinned by the open futures model, which imagines the future as a space of unrestrained creativity. We contrast that model with the lived futures model typical of localized publics, which respects latency of materials and processes but imposes limits on creativity. We argue that to continue being societally relevant and scientifically important, public participation methods should reconcile the open future of research with the lived futures of localized publics.

Author: Matt Watson

A Human Geographer at the University of Sheffield, interested in how everyday human action and social orders make each other, with implications for sustainability and wellbeing.

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