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Loka Alert 6:5 (11 Sept. 1999)
From: Loka Staff
Date: Sun Sep 12, 1999 4:55am
Subject: DEMOCRATIZING TECHNOLOGY: THE MISSING 1/2

Please Repost Widely Where Appropriate

DEMOCRATIC POLITICS OF TECHNOLOGY: THE MISSING HALF

Using Democratic Criteria in Participatory Technology Decisions


Friends & Colleagues:

This is one in an occasional series on the democratic politics of research, science, and technology issued free of charge by the nonprofit Loka Institute. To be added to the Loka Alert E-mail list, or to reply to this post, please send a message to Loka@loka.org. IF YOU ENJOY LOKA ALERTS, PLEASE INVITE INTERESTED FRIENDS & COLLEAGUES TO SUBSCRIBE TOO. Thanks!

This Loka Alert announces a new Loka Institute project on "Identifying Democratic Technologies." Further information about this project is on the Web at <http://www.Loka.org/idt/intro.htm>. We also announce the availability of Loka Institute student internships.

Cheers to all, Dick Sclove, Founder & Research Director The Loka Institute, P.O. Box 355, Amherst, MA 01004, USA E-mail <Loka@loka.org>, Web <http://www.Loka.org> Tel. +1-413-559-5860; Fax +1-413-559-5811


(I) DEMOCRATIC POLITICS OF TECHNOLOGY: THE MISSING HALF

Using Democratic Criteria in Participatory Technology Decisions

by Dick Sclove, E-mail <Sclove@loka.org> Founder & Research Director, The Loka Institute

No nation on earth has an effective system for taking into account the profound effects that technologies exert on basic social and political structures, including on democratic values and institutions. The absence of such a capability stunts fulfilment of the democratic promise, thwarting people's opportunities to establish the lives, communities, and societies they wish.

In response, the Loka Institute has launched a new project on "Identifying Democratic Technologies." Our objective is to develop participatory tools for evaluating crucial but neglected social repercussions produced by technologies. If successful, such tools can function as alternatives to the economically-grounded methods (such as cost-benefit analysis) that, despite their inability to take into account technologies' impacts on basic social structure, today dominate decisions about technology.

Our immediate effort involves adapting "scenario workshops on urban sustainability" -- a participatory technology assessment method developed recently in Europe -- to incorporate the debate and use of criteria for evaluating technologies' social and political significance. The criteria that we will use as a starting point derive from my 1995 book _Democracy and Technology_ (New York and London: Guilford Press).

"The issues with which the Loka Institute's project on Identifying Democratic Technologies plans to grapple seem of fundamental significance to me. I anticipate the results to prove of deep interest across a wide variety of contexts of application, be it in Europe, the United States, or elsewhere."

-- Francisco Fernandez, Principal Administrator, European Commission Innovation Program

An essay introducing the Loka Institute's new project on Identifying Democratic Technologies appears on the Web at <http://www.Loka.org/idt/intro.htm>. The table of contents of that essay is shown below:


DEMOCRATIC POLITICS OF TECHNOLOGY: THE MISSING HALF

Contents

1. Democratizing Technology: Historical & Theoretical Background (2 pages)

2. Debating & Applying Democratic Design Criteria (1 page)

3. European Scenario Workshops (2 pages)

4. Using Democratic Criteria Within Scenario Workshops on Urban Sustainability (3 pages)

o Table 1: Questions For Examining Technologies' Political Effects

5. Democratic Politics Versus Economics-As-Usual (1/2 page)

6. Next Steps (including What You Can Do) (1/2 page)


(II) LOKA INSTITUTE INTERNSHIPS

The Loka Institute has openings for volunteers, graduate and undergraduate student interns, and work-study students for late fall 1999 and beyond. The activities in which interns are involved vary from research assistance and writing to assisting in project development and management, fundraising, managing our Internet lists, Web page updates, helping with clerical and other office work, etc. We strive to tailor internships to match your individual interests. If you are interested in working with us to promote a democratic politics of research, science and technology, please send a hard copy resume along with a succinct letter explaining your interest, and stating the dates you would like to be at Loka, to: Volunteer & Internship Coordinator, The Loka Institute, P.O. Box 355, Amherst, MA 01004, USA. You may also fax these materials to us at +1-(413)-559-5811.

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(III) ABOUT THE LOKA INSTITUTE

The Loka Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making research, science and technology responsive to democratically decided social and environmental concerns. Current Loka projects include:

o The Community Research Network

o Deliberative Citizens' Panels on Science & Technology

o Identifying Democratic Technologies

o Building a Constituency for Democratizing Research, Science & Technology

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE LOKA INSTITUTE, to participate in our on-line discussion groups, to download or order publications, or to help please visit our Web page: <http://www.Loka.org>. Or contact us via E-mail at Loka@Loka.org.

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