PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Participation and Democracy

Bernard Schiele  

Participation and Democracy The divulgation of the sciences has always been associated with the idea of the participation of the public. The first meaning of participate refers to a capacity - to possess a science culture - while the second signifies: "the act of participating". So it is a question of actions by the individual(s), a results-oriented recourse of means to an end. And hence the whole challenge of participation. The difficulty, in terms of mobilizing this science culture - namely, to draw on the potential of the knowledge and experience of participants - is that generally these competencies don't adhere to the same interests or attributes. This difficulty is exacerbated by the explosion of scientific knowledge, with its constellation of disciplines and generalized circulation of information. These general questions only find their true answers in specific cultural and social contexts. In each, the concepts of "public", "divulgation", "participation", "perception", "competence" and "mobilization" must be rephrased in relation with the situations in which we try to apply them. This raises the question of the applicability of "universal" models to different contexts. Thus, the aim of this session is to examine how are formulated and tackled with these questions in different socio-cultural contexts: Canada, South Africa, France and India. The proposed session will consist of four interventions, all of which, drawing from case studies, will present how are reformulated and problematized the questions of "information", "qualification" and "participation". This is why this session will not only aim to investigate, and thus to shine light upon, the structuring effect of the cultural and social context on the perception of the divulgation of the sciences, but also the gauging of the qualifications of social actors.

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