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A twenty-first century citizens' polis: a democratic experiment in electronic public participation in science and technology decision-making using mobile telephones, risk and health as a case study

Williams, Simon Nicholas 2010. A twenty-first century citizens' polis: a democratic experiment in electronic public participation in science and technology decision-making using mobile telephones, risk and health as a case study. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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Abstract

This thesis is an original, empirical contribution to the topic of public participation in science and technology S&T decision-making. This thesis introduces the Citizens' POLIS (Participatory On-Line Interactive System): an innovative, multi-method, multi stage, hypermedia process for public participation in S&T decision-making. The purpose of the thesis is twofold: 1. to conduct and describe an actual public participation process, and to present the results (the participants' decisions) of this process in an accessible format for a wide variety of audiences (including public and policy audiences) 2. To serve also as a piece of social science research, and to analyse the results (the participant's deliberation) of this research in a critical manner so as to contribute to academic debates (i.e. for predominately academic audiences). This thesis has been borne of two stimuli: an observation about the limits of the existing literature and a consideration about the philosophical nature of public participation and of social science in general. It has been noted from the literature that there has been, since the early flourish in the 1970s, relatively few examples of public participation process organised, not by government or 'official' bodies, but by university-based social scientists. This thesis is informed by the Pragmatist philosophy of John Dewey. Dewey's Pragmatism has much to offer the study of public participation in S&T decision-making. It places an epistemic emphasis on experimentation on understanding something through trying something out. As such, the rationale for this thesis is that by organising a public participation process for oneself - i.e. experimenting with it - is the best way to understand what constitutes a 'good' public participation process. The results of this thesis are trifurcate, split across the substantive, theoretical and methodological. The substantive findings are related to what the citizens thought of the issue, in this case 'mobile telephones, risk and health'. Participants, it was found, were on the whole 'not overly concerned' by this issue. The theoretical findings contribute to academic understanding on prominent Science and Technology Studies (STS) concepts such as 'precaution', 'risk'; and 'expertise'. They seek to add a new perspective to our understandings - one provided by an informed and reasoned deliberation among citizens in a designated institutional space. The methodological findings contribute to our understanding of what constitutes a 'good' participation process - and serves as an empirical evaluation of a social-science led public participation process.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
ISBN: 9781303196560
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:30
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/54467

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