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Democratising new technologies, Politechs, Sat afternoon
ADOPTER(S) Jasber Singh (jasbersingh AT, Noel Cass (n.cass AT, Tish
FACILITATOR(S) it would be good to identify facilitators in advance! enter names here

Background information.

Human societies are embedded in technology - like also sometimes ants - and it is therEfore necessary to think about how technology is produced, who owns it and what kind of environmental implications anything related to the production, distribution and consumption of any and all kinds of technologies. Technology is also a central element in analyses of power and knowledge structures, and in matters of the law. Technology also has a psycho-social impact, see for instance The Playboy Interview with Marshall McLuhan.

Might there may be reason for optimism?:

"The basic claim of the new consensus is that technologies only work for people if these people are allowed to play an integral part in the development and application of any new or existing technology. To ensure that environmental sustainability and equal rights for every individual are safeguarded it is essential to combine scientific and technological innovation with democratic processes that encourage the active participation of all groups in society, unrestricted by intellectual property systems. Recent editorials in influential scientific journals and initiatives by senior figures in the scientific profession suggest that scientists are themselves ready for such an approach.",

"Knowledge has long been synonymous with power, but with the advent of the Internet, access to knowledge is quickly becoming a requirement for power whether social, political or economic. In our increasingly interconnected world, we must work together to see that all people have access to the knowledge the Internet has to offer. […] let us make our efforts a bridge that spans the digital divide. — Kofi Annan, 2004" both quotes from ITDG

How can be people be involved in the development of science and technology?

What kind of technologies do we need?

And what do we not need?

A number of knowledge labbers are currently poised (in competition or job-share(!)) to engage on a highly relevant project: An investigation into how insights from a science and technology studies/environmnental sociology perspecive can aid the 'rolling-out' of renewable energy technologies, given that they have met local community resistance when proposed (NIMBYism). The proposal is to explore how a variety of participatory process including involving local communities in the development and co-ownership of such projects, as well as looking at more participatory ways of 'doing' consultation, can help to democratise technology development in a local context. Other contributers are expected to add feedback from local and national public consultation processes on attitudes to GM technologies, and from a report on the more usual current state of affairs, based on a Scientists for Global Responsibility report on 'Soldiers in the Laboratory'.

comments on the involvement of publics

i have not been involved with or made an in-depth study of projects involving the partcipation of publics, but it is fascinating and crucial to the question of: assuming we believe in mass movement (which i know is not the only meaningful radical politic currently floating amongst dissidents), what sort of mass movement do we want? i.e. what is our role as activists/academics as part of these publics? how do we make sure knowledges are accessible to publics?

some more questions/comments:

1) if publics are involved, do they really have enough power to change the course and/or nature of the technologies on offer?

2) are publics in the u.k. so emdebbed in this stage of technological development that a general critique of why we need technology at all is not possible in any meaningful sense?

3) we need to smash expertise - but how? is the information used to make 'democratic' decisions re tech with publics neutral? if not, how can we deconstruct it? e.g. media. how can skills re the implementation of tech be democratic and fairly distributed?

4) is public involvement a way of de-radicalising people?

5) maybe it would enable people to think about things they wouldn't have done if they weren't being 'consulted'?

6) how many people/which people should be/are involved? is it like jury service, which pretends to be a neutral cross-section of society? juries often make decisions based on theoretically unrelated things such as the appearance of the defendent.

7) if the motivation of the people behind capitalist technology and the technology itself is primarily based on profit and exploitation, what is the people's tech based on? percieved needs of communities? we have to deconstruct what 'need' means in order to answer what tech is necesarry and what is acceptable beyond the necessary.

8) how can a federation of communities function so as to deliberate re a global tech? can publics in the u.k. decide on suitable tech's to meet their 'needs' in communities and in terms of the relations between communities in this country and consider the global context, e.g. where the raw materials come from/who and what nature is being exploited?

9) which tech's are used in the process of this 'consultation'? how do they affect the process?

10) ecology - it' not simply about people, in terms of equality of access to and understanding of tech, but which processes are involved with creating even the most minimal tech - the ecology of the raw materials, transportation, working conditions, disposal. is tech ecocentric/anthropocentric? or something else?

11) are communities being asked to offer their situated knowledges as authority in a single context? how does this relate to the possibility of wider critiques?

12) in terms of co-ownership, are the interests of the 'non-publics participants' open and accountable?

now i'm feeling like being as far away from tech as possible! going on a quest for wild nature.............bye bye

more info here soon