Par­tic­i­pat­ing in Par­tic­i­pa­tion: Pol­i­tics and Cit­i­zen Power


Session Title:

  • Tyrannies of Participation

Presentation Title:

  • Par­tic­i­pat­ing in Par­tic­i­pa­tion: Pol­i­tics and Cit­i­zen Power




  • Panel: Tyrannies of Participation

    Sim­i­lar to the cul­tural zeit­geist in the 1970s, the past sev­eral years have been marked by an op­ti­mistic dis­course about the tech­nolo­gies of po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion in Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment. From elec­tronic town hall meet­ings to Pres­i­dent Obama’s Cit­i­zen Brief­ing Book to the Face­book pages of politi­cians and po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions, the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate is com­mit­ted to in­stan­ti­at­ing ideals of par­tic­i­pa­tory democ­racy in tech­no­log­i­cal tools for cit­i­zens. But what power have these tools cre­ated? In this pre­sen­ta­tion I apply a sem­i­nal dis­cus­sion of par­tic­i­pa­tory pol­i­tics writ­ten in the 1970s in re­la­tion to mod­ern day ex­pe­ri­ences of cit­i­zen par­tic­i­pa­tion. Writ­ten by Sherry Arn­stein, A Lad­der of Cit­i­zen Par­tic­i­pa­tion, looks at the pal­lia­tive ef­fects of par­tic­i­pa­tory pro­jects, cit­ing the prob­lem of “par­tic­i­pat­ing in par­tic­i­pa­tion”. Seen in re­la­tion to cur­rent ef­forts to har­ness cit­i­zen power in po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion mak­ing, the prob­lem of “par­tic­i­pat­ing in par­tic­i­pa­tion” un­masks the su­per­fi­cial­ity of par­tic­i­pa­tory pro­jects and prac­tices. Ex­am­ples will be drawn from the Unites States’ pre­mier reg­u­la­tory body for media, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and in­for­ma­tion pol­i­cy­mak­ing.

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