Is “public engagement” a form of participation?

December 10, 2010 | 3 minutes

The literature on and experience with “public engagement” in science is large and growing. There are now plenty of studies of experimental forms of promoting deliberative “public engagement” with various aspects of what the US and EU government funds and carries out. One could even see this as one case among many of a general trend towards “participatory engineering” by governments (and other entities as well). More on this soon…

New Article: Ross, Problematizing the User in User-Centered Production

December 7, 2010 |

Philippe Ross, Problematizing the user in user-centred production: A new media lab meets its audiences, Social Studies of Science, 306312710385851, first published on December 7, 2010 doi:10.1177/0306312710385851 Haven’t read it yet, but from the abstract: “this study shows how producers distinguish and mediate between users and partners; how they sustain the notion that there is a group of users ‘out there’ whose existence and requirements can be substantiated prior to the creation of specific technical choices; and how user involvement in and of itself is used for the strategic purpose of enticing partners and asserting their control over the production process.

The History of Social Networking

December 6, 2010 |

Hey, I think the Tim Wu virus is spreading. Stupid uses of history are popping up all over in TechCrunch… this time, a three part “history” of social networking (Past, Present, Future) that starts off “kids these days…I was into social networking waaaay before it was cool…” but ends up in the standard silicon valley eternal future.

The End of Internet History: Wikileaks

December 6, 2010 |

TechCrunch post about the end of internet history, basically arguing that Wikileaks is like the wall coming down (direct comparison to Francis Fukuyama’s book). Wikileaks is in fact interesting in what it means for the state of transparency and the attempt to control information by governments, but it’s not the end of history… Interesting for us why? Because “leaking” is not “participation”– or is it?

Clinical Trials as a case for participation

November 30, 2010 |

I’m reading Roberto Abadie’s book on the class of people known as professional guinea pigs: people who are paid to participate in clinical trials and who make a living (or what passes for one) doing trial after trial. The idea of this as a form of work (or labor, or job) bears some nice resemblances to the other cases we are considering, such as participation in Amazon Mechanical Turk or the life of the free lance journalist.


November 29, 2010 | 3 minutes

Participation, partial, partable, partisan, particular, party In the Nature of Participation. All too easily do we identify the need for and importance of participation: participatory democracy, audience participation, user-participation, participant-observation etc. Usually, it’s a good thing, though for the darkly minded, it’s akin to exploitation—free labor. But rarely, if ever, is it simply identified and distinguished. **This lab aims to make its object of study participation in its “natural” settings, the changing ecology of global information and communication.