University of Sussex
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Let them brew! Reflexivity, and division of labour in deliberation for science and technology governance

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posted on 2023-06-08, 18:20 authored by Yun Jeong Lee
This thesis examines the theoretical premises of and ways that macro deliberative approaches to decision making function in application to specific instances of science and technology governance. Macro-level deliberations constitute complex, extended, distributed decision making processes, in contrast to individual micro deliberation exercises undertaken in particular settings. Macro deliberations employ the mechanism of ‘division of labour’ in terms of actors, tasks and methods in order to secure the two essential qualities of ‘inclusiveness’ and ‘deliberativeness’ – thus resolving the inherent tension between number of participants and deep discussion. Accordingly, the thesis focuses on the ways in which this paradoxical mechanism of ‘inclusion by division’ functions in macro deliberations. An interrogation of two UK nationwide public deliberation cases – GM Dialogue (on GM crops) and the CoRWM process (on radioactive waste) – sheds light on the significant role of reflexivity in such macro deliberative approaches to decision making. The thesis adopts a triangulated approach towards both documents and interviews employing contending representations to cross-check the one with the other. In considering the ways in which reflexivity constitutes a critical quality of the process and outcome of division of labour in macro deliberations, the thesis argues that the notion of reflexivity is central to explaining how macro deliberation functions: The reflective and self-contingent feature of reflexivity enables participants to explore diverse rationales on division of labour through continuous generation of new rationales; this recursive self-reconfiguration process of rationales on division of labour entails an evolutionary development of division of labour. As division of labour is played out not in a static, exogenous fashion, but through a dynamic, endogenous construction process, reflexivity in real-world macro deliberations illuminates some significant contrasts in the ways that ‘deliberation’ and ‘inclusion’ take place to those characterised in theory. Indeed, deliberation emerges in practice as more than just open rational dialogue. In order to understand this more fully, it must be seen in terms of diversity of material, social and political interactions, and relationships – referred to here as ‘discursive relations’. In reality, then, inclusion occurs in more emergent ways than intended by design, rather, unfolding as participants engage with each other. In this way, actors’ divergent views are cross-reflected and mutually influence each other, not through theoretically-envisaged top-down aggregation but via a kind of endogenous ‘fermentation’ process. In this way, reflexivity actually makes macro public deliberation a more effectively inclusive and deliberative decision making process. In short, recognition of this inherent reflexivity in macro deliberations offers practically to aid improved understanding of the complex process of engagement in science and technology governance. It suggests that we would benefit from shifting our attention somewhat away from the direct provision of strictly prescriptive design protocols towards the construction of better general environments for facilitating more reflexivity, which should enable actors to shape their own reflexive deliberation. Then let them brew!


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  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

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