Science-Technology-Society (STS) Research

De Haagse magistraat in 1647 by Cornelis Jonsson (Jansz.) van Ceulen/ Image available here

STS addresses the role of deliberative democracy and citizen participation in science and technology management where boundary organisations* can play an important role: traditional forms of deliberation have failed to engage forms of emotive and affective storytelling to make dialogue more inclusive or minority cultures and worldviews/ There are many technologies of deliberation: consensus conferences; citizen juries; participatory budgeting; science shops and deliberative polls/ these are more focused on citizen appraisals than citizen-based initiatives/ focus has turned to the three areas of concern:

01 micropolitics of deliberation: concerned about how issues are framed-design and facilitation of processes-recruitment of participants-management of consensus and about issues of representation and inclusivity/ Deliberation organizers often aim for a demographic, rather than political, sampling of community members/ An inclusive deliberative process accounts for both demographic and social group representation/ inclusive deliberation requires formal opportunities to speak, as well as diverse communication styles that include ‘‘other’’ ways of cultural knowing like music and dance (Young, 2008)

02 macro policy impacts: measuring impacts of deliberation on policy processes/ it is difficult to connect citizen deliberation with meaningful global policy

03 reassessing the role of substantive engagement: citizens engaged as subjects rather than as objects of discourse/ consider the direct short-term policy impacts, but also the personal and social impacts of ‘‘learning, thinking and talking’’ together/ the goal should be ‘‘to make explicit the plurality of reasons, culturally embedded assumptions and socially contingent knowledge ways that can inform collective action’’/ work on reducing the epistemic distance of objects and processes under debate’/ scholars must create tactile spaces where participants can see, taste, touch, smell and hear for themselves the phenomena around which knowledge claims are being made

*boundary organization is a formal body jointly generated by the scientific and political communities to coordinate different purposes and promote consistent boundaries and mutually incomprehensible interactions (…) Guston put forward the idea of boundary organizations to stabilize the boundary between scientists and policymakers (…) Boundary organization serves as a secure space can be established through good relations and procedures for negotiating disputes (wiki)


Phadke, R., manning C. & Burlager, S. (2015). Making it personal: Diversity and deliberation in climate adaptation planning. In Climate Risk Management 9, 62-76

the Whole Earth Catalog and the WELL: back to the future

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These two resources, read in parallel, offer a fascinating read. I have mentioned the Whole Earth Catalog before when discussing ecological architecture, but up to now I hadn’t quite investigated what it was about. Fred Turner’s article ‘Where the Counterculture Met the New Economy’ discusses the Whole Earth catalog in detail and how Stewart Brand -the catalog’s master mind- sought to establish a common ground for all dispersed individuals living in communals in the 1960’s by offering a venue where they could communicate and form a single social network. These individuals had stepped away from agonistic politics and the bureaucratic myth of ‘objective consciousness’ and sought to change the world by establishing exemplary communities and change the consciousness of individuals.

The catalog presented reviews of hand tools, books and magazines arrayed in categories (..) It also established a relationship between informational technology, economic activity and alternative forms of community that would outlast the counterculture itself and become a key feature of the digital world

The catalog aimed at creating ‘a countercultural style of consumerism’ by making product suggestions but also to ways of thinking and speaking; a transformation of the self. Personal power believed Brand, develops from the power of the individual to conduct his own education and environment.

After the significant success of WEC (the catalog was fully operational for ten years after which Brand continued to publish additional versions), back in the 1980’s when Brand was approached by Larry Brilliant (founder of Network Technologies International) to help him promote computer conferencing systems, Brand came up with the idea of WELL. By now an online platform (a bulletin-board system then), WELL is based on the countercultural conception of community to create a network forum.

Brand wanted The Well to appeal not just to the Whole Earth crowd but to a wider audience: he wanted hackers, he wanted journalists (…) At the same time, he had a hunch that, in addition to electronic dialog, there should be a strong face-to-face element to The Well (…) He sensed that the most interesting possibility to arise from knitting electronic dialog into the fabric of everyday life would lie not in championing either the virtual or the human-contact model but rather in finding the place where they overlapped (…) But probably the most important of Brand’s early convictions for The Well was that people should take responsibility for what they said

For many members of the WELL, on-line collaboration offered a chance to revivify the spirit of the counterculture farms while also establishing and supporting a new type of individual professional, one that cultivated professional and interpersonal networks and key sources for future employment. The latter was directly related to the changes in 1980’s company culture and the dismantling of hierarchical systems towards the formation of corporations. WELL technology and thematics supported this new type of individual. Interactivity was instantaneous and yet collective: it was possible to exchange smaller, time-sensitive
pieces of information, ranging from data on a not-yet-announced technology to a bit of gossip and the forum could enhance the reputations of its users.

I keep that WELL has been ‘a non-hierarchically organized social form in which scattered individuals are linked to one another by an information technology and through it the experience of a shared mindset.’ As web communication had not yet been centralised, these forms of network exchange were the first manifestations of networked online learning communities: people learned from each other. Whilst WELL perhaps focused more in the interaction part than content sharing, and despite its shortcomings, it represented a more democratic medium for co-existence where everybody had a name and were accountable for what they believed and wrote. Thus we come to the second part of the title ‘back to the future’: on our way ahead we fell behind on what made networked communication so alluring in the first place. The possibility to openly speak our minds but to also stand up for and take responsibility for what we are saying.


Turner, F. (2005). Where the Counterculture Met the New Economy. The WELL and the Origins of Virtual Community, Technology and Culture 46 (3), pp. 485-512. Full paper available here

Hafner, K. (1997). The Epic Saga of The Well: The World’s Most Influential Online Community (And It’s Not AOL). The Wire magazine. Full article available here

Closing the Loop Documentary

Closing The Loop is the world’s first feature length documentary on the zero-waste / circular economy, supporting UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 on Responsible Production and Consumption. The film is presented by global sustainability expert Prof. Dr. Wayne Visser, in collaboration with Emmy and two time Telly Award winning director Graham Ehlers Sheldon. The film ranges across three continents and includes commentary from global experts and centres of excellence like the World Economic Forum and the University of Cambridge. A number of innovative circular economy cases are also featured in detail. The Circular Economy Club (CEC) is a communication and promotion partner of Closing the Loop. A film by Kaleidoscope Futures Lab. and Stand Up 8 Productions.

Participatory Budgeting

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Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a form of direct democracy at the local level, where all citizens state annually prioritized sectors to be financed before allocating investment resources in projects of their choice in those sectors. It has four key moments: diagnosis, deliberation, decision-making and follow-up (…) The epitome of PB is Porto Alegre (…) Five criteria required to qualify a PB: all citizens participate to the choice of the allocation of resources, this occurs at an administrative level of power (for example a town, but not a quarter), this process has to be repeated over years, a deliberation must take place in a specific institution, and finally citizens should be informed ex post of the status of the budget and the projects (…) The city government’s “Presentation of Accounts” from the previous year marks the beginning of the PB process in March-April. From April until May, regional and thematic assemblies take place with the objectives of establishing thematic priorities by voting, electing councilors for each region, defining the number of delegates, and repeating the budget review for the preceding year at the local level (…) These meetings are open to all citizens and constitute the central and most inclusive component of the process (…) The five thematic areas discussed in the PB at city-level assemblies are: transport and traffic; education, leisure, and culture; health and social welfare; economic development and taxation; and organization of the city, urban and environmental development. (…) One of the main reasons why Brazilian reforms have moved so quickly after the dictatorship has been the passing of a new Constitution in 1988. This Constitution strengthened municipal autonomy, validated the participation of community groups in municipal decision-making, and attributed important social and economic policy functions to municipal authorities (…) there are four keys for a PB to be successful: a strong mayoral support, an active civil society, self-ruling given to citizens for the mechanisms of the PB, and consequent financial resources to fund the projects selected by citizens (…) The main findings are: a better allocation of resources (more equitably and appropriately distributed among sectors and communities), an increase in the financing of basic needs, and a more inclusive, less corrupted democracy.

Adrien Frank, An Overview of Participatory Budgeting, 2015

Porto Alegre, the coordinative model of a smart city

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(Olivio) Dutra (Workers’ Party) was elected mayor of Porto Alegre with 34% of the votes (…) Dutra’s term as mayor of Porto Alegre, starting in 1989 and ending in 1992, was the first of four consecutive terms of the Workers’ Party in the city, totaling 16 years of administration (…) Porto Alegre became a sort of display cabinet for the party in the rest of Brazil: A place where it experimented successful and innovative initiatives such as participatory budgeting (…) participatory budgeting has led to direct improvements in facilities in Porto Alegre (…) According to Fedozzi and Costa, this system has been recognized as a successful experience of interaction between people and the official administrative spheres in public administration and, as such, has gained a broad impact on the political scene nationally and internationally, being interpreted as a strategy for the establishment of an active citizenship in Brazil.

Wiki & Wiki

The process began in loose neighbor assemblies (…) access was open (…) the data were organized so that they could be debated (…) Conflicts between neighborhoods were dealt with by elected reps (…) The system flourished for 20 years but was later squashed down by top down power (…) it began to loose coherence (…) vast waves of migrants were not integrated (…) with the advent of big data, smartphone etc, it is now possible again to coordinate participation at a megacity scale (…) a system including organized, debatable data, online chatrooms that assemble views and feedback is now running in over 250 Brazilian cities (…) use of technology helps people choose (…) people have to get engaged in the data, interpreting it (hermeneutic) and acting on it (…) the coordinative city is democratic whereas the prescriptive is authoritarian

Richard Sennett’s, Building and Dwelling, Penguin Books, 2019, pp. 164-165
Porto Alegre – RS, 11.05.2011 Temática de Habitação, Organização da Cidade, Desenvolvimento Urbano e Ambiental. Local: Teatro Dante Barone – Assembléia Legislativa Foto: Ivo Gonçalves/PMPA, Image available here

The SULP approach


SULP: Synergetic Urban Landscape Planning

This is an integrated approach that allows us to explore, imagine and plan synergies so as to accelerate the transition to a liveable, low carbon city. During the research process, SULP has continuously been reinforced by incorporating the results of the separate studies on water, climate, energy, urban agriculture and nutrients. Synergetic urban landscape planning forms the bridge between CO2 and livability goals on the one hand, and principles for sustainable urban development on the other.

More on SULP here

Funding the Cooperative City by D. Patti & L. Polyak


In the context of increasing pressure on public administrations to become entrepreneurial, financial capital has had a growing role in shaping cities across the world (…) In the financialised city, buildings are “no longer something to use, but to own (with the hope of increased asset-value, rather than use-value, over time).” When the exchange-value of buildings gains prominence over their use-value, they lose all relationship with actual needs and become acting “similarly to how financial products are being created and sold that have lost any connection with real production or a real economy” (…) In the context of the crisis, many local and cultural communities witnessed their spatial and economic resources diminishing with the drainage of funding and the withdrawal of institutional support (…) as a response, many of these communities set themselves to create spaces and services on their own (…) These new forms of governance contributed to the formal or informal extension of the field of actors in urban development and to the outsourcing of “former public tasks and services to volunteer organisations, community associations, non-profit corporations, foundations, and private firms” (…) The engagement of non-institutional and non-profit actors in renovating, operating and managing civic spaces brought participation to a new level: instead of expressing consent or dissent related to a planned development project, or even contributing to the program or design of a new urban area, many communities took the initiative into their own hands and became developers – urban pioneers, spatial entrepreneurs or city makers – themselves. 



Daniela Patti & Levente Polyak (eds.), 2017. Funding the Cooperative City: Community Finance and the Economy of Civic Spaces, Vienna: Cooperative City Books

Funding the Cooperative City is a research and advocacy project initiated by the Rome- Vienna-Budapest-based organisation Eutropian.

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Digital Citizenship through Hybrid Education



  • Marshal/1950: Citizen is bestowed on those who are full members of a community-Educations as a social right/ Right of the adult citizen to have been educated instead of the right of the child to go to school.
  • Banks/2008: Citizen should be expanded to include cultural democracy and cultural citizenship as all liberal democracies are multi ethnic or multinational.
  • Mossberger et al./2008: Citizen defines as representing capacity, belonging, and the potential for political and economic engagement in society in the information age

Becoming and Belonging and the Capabilities to do so.

  • Capabilities to do so_McGillivray et al/2016: pedagogies need to be aligned with technologies to prepare both students and teachers to deal with the opportunities and threats of a digitally mediated world (…) Kymlicka/ 2002: Education for digital citizenship is not simply a matter of information, knowledge and know-how but it is also a matter of interpersonal and inherently ethical relations (…) Sen/1976: shift from mere technologies to what they enable people to do.
  • Becoming_Arendt/1958: the newcomer possesses the capacity of beginning something anew, human condition is connected to labor, work and action. With action in plurality we become a someone. Education is when we decide we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it.
  • Belonging_Bauman/1997: Inclusion as difference. Difference is not merely unavoidable but good, precious and in need of protection. A chance to reconsider individual freedom in diversity. Lingis/1994: community of those who have nothing in common is constituted by our response to the stranger (…) in our system of laws and our social institutions we recognize our formulated experience, our judgement, our debated consensus-in our rational enterprises we find nothing alien to us, we find ourselves (…) Biesta/ 2004: communication is ontologically prior to community but establishes community in the act of our response. What constitutes this other community inside the rational community is our responsiveness (…) Giroux/2011: pedagogy is a mode of witnessing, a public engagement in which students learn to be attentive and responsible to the memories and narratives of others

Hybridity: term originates from Latin and has roots in biology. It refers to cross-fertilization or amalgamation, the adoption and integration of elements from foreign cultures for Greeks and Romans, the international style in archaeology where no culture predominates (…) the term is closely connected to post-colonialism and multicultural awareness, it is an effort to remove negative connotations from words such as bastard or mongrel (…) Bhabha/1994: it is not a sequential blend of sth like flipped classroom or blended learning but it is sth other, a new breed, sth that is at least at two places at once.  (…) an effect of globalization/ hybridity emerges through the multitude of identities as a reality of the global classroom (…) Deleuze-Guattari/1980: a seamless and continuous flow wothout beginning and end akin to a rhizome (…) as a philosophical concept it suggests hesitation at a threshold (…) Stommel/2012: hybrid education is characterized by disruption, open-endedness, risk-taking, experimentation, empathy, dialogue and critical creativity.



Pedersen, A.Y., Nørgaard, R.T., Köppe, C., 2018. Patterns of Inclusion: Fostering Digital Citizenship through Hybrid Education. In Educational Technology & Society, 21 (1), 225-236

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