23 May
09:30 - 17:30

Participation and STS sensibilities: taking stock and moving forward

Today, the notion of public participation receives recognition in academic and political debates, and participatory initiatives enjoy remarkable support from many governments, regulators, and funders. Yet, many challenges remain. Efforts to increase participation have been accompanied by exclusions; preframed agendas of many participation exercises have alienated unfitting perspectives; and the diversity of ways in which publics act on the issues of their concern received limited recognition. 

Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholars have been among those most actively engaged in studying, advocating for, and raising critiques of public participation in numerous fields from health care to energy transitions. STS scholarship provides multiple insights valuable for moving the field of public participation forward. This workshop aims to explore what taking STS sensibilities seriously would mean for conceiving, understanding, practising, and valuing public participation at the present moment. 

Mainstream approaches in the practice of public participation tend to remain focused on discrete, mostly talk-based organised participatory exercises, confined to specific questions and narrow topics. In contrast, recent STS scholarship suggests considering public participation from a holistic or systemic point of view. This point of view entails understanding participation as an ecosystem of diverse and interconnected ways in which publics engage in shaping matters of concern. It also entails attending to everyday, mundane, material, and private forms of such engagement, beyond more traditional focus on deliberative and public forms. 

Participants of this workshop will address the following questions: 

  • How to take account of the diversity and multiplicity of ways in which publics participate in articulating and addressing issues of concern? 
  • What kinds of, perhaps overlooked, citizen participatory initiatives become visible as a result? 
  • How can policy and practice do justice to multiple forms of participation and their relational interdependencies? 
  • Importantly, what does such a systemic view of participation mean for understanding and addressing challenges participation faces nowadays in different contexts, including those outside more extensively researched high-income democracies?


Full program of the workshop can be found here.

Please note! The number of participants attending in person is limited and these spots have already been filled. But you can still join the conversation online. Register here and we will send you a link a day before the workshop.

The workshop is organised by the team of the InPart project led by Olga Zvonareva from the Care and Public Health Institute (Maastricht University, The Netherlands) together with The Käte Hamburger Kolleg: Cultures of Research and Human Technology Center (RTWH Aachen University, Germany), and Spiral Research Centre (University of Liege, Belgium). It is supported by European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 948073) and by Universiteitsfonds Limburg (SWOL) Foundation.

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