Private Issues in Public Spaces: Regimes of Engagement at a Citizen Conference

Juan C. Aceros & Miquel Domènech (2020)

Minerva, pp. 1-21

Abstract. The ‘participatory turn’ in science and technology governance has resulted in the growth of initiatives designed to engage lay people in consultation and decision-making on controversial matters. Almost from the start there has been both enthusiasm and serious critique of these exercises, from scholars and activists. The gaps and challenges are well known. In this paper we indicate the limitations of deliberative mechanisms as regards how they cope with familiar forms of people’s engagement with a given matter. We examine how this phenomenon unfolded at the Barcelona Citizen Conference on the Digitalization of Society; a participatory exercise inspired by the model of consensus conferences that took place in 2014 in Barcelona. Our perspective on the topic is inspired by Sociology of Engagements. Focusing on how participants and organizers deal with individual anecdotes, worries and testimonies reported during the conference, the analysis shows how these formats are ignored, externalized, banned and re-formed during deliberations. This phenomenon is seen as supporting a civic-liberal regime of engagement.

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