Redistributing Problems of Participation
What makes a device-centred perspective on participation so attractive? I have argued that it allows us to reformulate problems of participation, and we are now in a position to do so. Material participation, we have seen, is often presented as a solution to problems of participation. Locating participation in material practice has been promoted as a way of making tractable two important constraints on democracy in technological societies: the busyness of everyday life and the complexity of issues. By turning everyday practices into occasions for acting on public affairs, material participation promises to make engagement eminently doable. However, over the course of this book, we have encountered a range of problems associated with material participation itself, such as the relative amorphousness of materially engaged publics, or their perceived lack of agency. While I have been critical of these various definitions of the problems associated with material publics, I have also argued that it would be a mistake to opt for the ‘non-critical’ solution and argue that material participation does not constitute a problem at all. Instead, we should explore and develop alternative ways of problematizing material publics.
KeywordsPublic Participation Public Engagement Relational Perspective Issue Formation Material Practice
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