“Opening Up” and “Closing Down”: Power, Participation, and Pluralism in the Social Appraisal of Technology

Science, Technology, and Human Values 33 (2):262-294 (2008)
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Abstract

Discursive deference in the governance of science and technology is rebalancing from expert analysis toward participatory deliberation. Linear, scientistic conceptions of innovation are giving ground to more plural, socially situated understandings. Yet, growing recognition of social agency in technology choice is countered by persistently deterministic notions of technological progress. This article addresses this increasingly stark disjuncture. Distinguishing between “appraisal” and “commitment” in technology choice, it highlights contrasting implications of normative, instrumental, and substantive imperatives in appraisal. Focusing on the role of power, it identifies key commonalities transcending the analysis/participation dichotomy. Each is equally susceptible to instrumental framing for variously weak and strong forms of justification. To address the disjuncture, it is concluded that greater appreciation is required—in both analytic and participatory appraisal—to facilitating the opening up of governance commitments on science and technology.

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