Rise and fall of grassroots or citizen initiatives in shaping the directions taken in science and technology

(Second in a series on "Teaching about scientific and political change in times of crisis")


A Collaborative Exploration (CE) in which participants consider the "Rise and fall of grassroots or citizen initiatives in shaping the directions taken in science and technology" at the same time as we explore and share emerging theory and research to inform and improve "Teaching about scientific and political change in times of crisis." In particular, we might chew on whether we have working under an outdated progressive imaginary about citizen engagement in science working with developments in social institutions to provide for the welfare of the populace.
  • In brief, CEs are an extension of Problem- or Project-Based Learning (PBL) and related approaches to education in which participants address a scenario or case in which the problems are not well defined, shaping their own directions of inquiry and developing their skills as investigators and prospective teachers (in the broadest sense of the word). (For more background, read the prospectus.)
  • If you want to know what a CE requires of you, review the expectations and mechanics.
    • on hangout for 1 hour/week in last full week of February and 3 weeks into March Mondays 12-1EST, 2/26, 3/5, 12, 19 (date and time chosen to match applicant's schedules). The URL for the first hangout will be provided only to those who register (via http://bit.ly/CEApply), which entails making a commitment to attend that 1st session and at least 2 of the other 3 hangouts.
  • If you are wondering how to define a meaningful and useful approach to the topic, let us present a scenario for the CE and hope this stimulates you to apply to participate. We will then let CE participants judge for themselves whether their inquiries are relevant.
  • Intended outcomes for participants of this CE are of two kinds:
    • a) tangible: a guide to one or more "places" to stop at on a self-guided trail to learn about ways that grassroots or citizen initiatives shape the directions taken in science and technology OR a precis or thought-piece about theory and research to inform and improve "teaching about scientific and political change in times of crisis"; and
    • b) experiential: being impressed at how much can be learned with a small commitment of time using the CE structure to motivate and connect participants.

Applications are sought from teachers, researchers, graduate students, and activists who want to think more about the CE topic in relation to the theme of the series. Newcomers and return participants are welcome.
(Additional CEs in the series: Jan-Feb, Mar-Apr, Apr-May 2018)
Scenario
Dickson, an English science journalist who had spent a number of years reporting from Washington, ended his 1984 book, The New Politics of Science, with the passage:
  • [S]cience must remain firmly identified as a powerful tool that can help us understand the natural universe in potentially powerful ways, but at the same time carries the seeds of human exploitation. How to tap one without falling victim to the other is the key challenge of the decades ahead. Creating the individuals and the political institutions through which this can be successfully achieved is the principal task now facing all those engaged in struggles over the new politics of science (Dickson 1984, 336).
Dickson, who had previously written The Politics of Alternative Technology, favored wider democratic involvement in shaping the directions taken in science and technology. He recognized, however, that the "new politics" being struggled over also included efforts by the military and private corporations to retain or increase their influence, control, and ownership of the processes and products of scientific and technological development.

Imagine that each of us is designing one or more "places" for viewers to stop at on a self-guided trail to learn about ways that grassroots or citizen initiatives shape the directions taken in science and technology, and how that works out for the good or science and good of democracy—or not. Some questions we might consider as we examine linkages or de-linkages of democracy and science and compose the text for the guides:
  • Who is included/excluded in shaping research and its applications? In what ways are the included/ excluded parties made to matter?
  • What is the "infrastructure" (Edwards 2003) or social organization that gets built to support participation or ensure exclusion?
  • How does any initiative or episode or strand of a timeline relate to other developments and the wider context?
    • "Developments" refers not only to democratizing initiatives-from-below, but also to changes in government, military and corporate policies. "Context" includes political, social, and cultural circumstances not only during the last 30 years, but also in relation to the post-WW2 history that Dickson describes, and includes developments in the interpretation of science in the fields of sociology, politics, anthropology, history, philosophy, and discursive or rhetorical analysis.
  • What theory and research can inform what is to be done in this emerging era in which people can no longer rely on assuming that the arc of history bends towards progress in science, in institutions that provide for the welfare of the populace, and in citizen engagement to bring the other two arcs together?

Some resources

Dickson, D. (1984). The New Politics of Science. New York, Pantheon, reprinted University of Chicago Press, 1988.
Edwards, P. N. (2003). Infrastructure and modernity: Force, time, and social organization in the history of sociotechnical systems. Modernity and Technology. T. J. Misa, P. Brey and A. Feenberg. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press: 185-225.
Epstein, S. (2008). Patient groups and health movements. The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. E. Hackett, O. Amsterdamska, M. Lynch and J. Wajcman. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press: 499-540.
Frickel, S. and K. Moore (eds.) (2006). The new political sociology of science: institutions, networks, and power. Madison, WI, University of Madison, Wisconsin.
Hackett, E., O. Amsterdamska, et al., Eds. (2008). The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.
Hess, D., S. Breyman, et al. (2008). Science, Technology, and Social Movements. In The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. E. Hackett, O. Amsterdamska, M. Lynch and J. Wajcman (eds.) Cambridge, MA, MIT Press: 473-498.
Leopold, L. (2007). The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi. White River Junction, VT, Chelsea Green Publishing. [provides entry points into the politics of science and technology through workplace-related struggles]
Moore, K. (2006). Powered By the People: Scientific Authority in Participatory Science. In The New Political Sociology of Science: Organizations, Networks, and Institutions. S. Frickel and K. Moore (eds.) Madison, WI, University of Wisconsin Press: 299-323.
Moore, K. (2008). Disrupting Science: Social Movements, American Scientists, and the Politics of the Military, 1945-1975. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.
Panofsky, A. (2011). "Generating sociability to drive science: Patient advocacy organizations and genetics research." Social Studies of Science 41(1): 31–57.
Sclove, R. (1995). Democracy and Technology. New York, Guilford.