Creating ‘Local Publics’: Responsibility and Involvement in Decision-Making on Technologies with Local Impacts

Science and Engineering Ethics 26 (4):2215-2234 (2020)
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Abstract

This paper makes a conceptual inquiry into the notion of ‘publics’, and forwards an understanding of this notion that allows more responsible forms of decision-making with regards to technologies that have localized impacts, such as wind parks, hydrogen stations or flood barriers. The outcome of this inquiry is that the acceptability of a decision is to be assessed by a plurality of ‘publics’, including that of a local community. Even though a plurality of ‘publics’ might create competing normative demands, its acknowledgment is necessary to withstand the monopolization of the process of technology appraisal. The paper presents four ways in which such an appropriation of publicness takes place. The creation of dedicated ‘local publics’, in contrast, helps to overcome these problems and allows for more responsible forms of decision-making. We describe ‘local publics’ as those in which stakeholders from the different publics that are related to the process of technology implementation are brought together, and in which concerns and issues from these publics are deliberated upon. The paper will present eight conditions for increasing the effectiveness of such ‘local publics’.

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Author Profiles

Gunter Bombaerts
University of Ghent (PhD)
Neelke Doorn
Delft University of Technology
Agnieszka Hunka
University of Twente