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The UK Nanojury as ‘upstream’ public engagement (PLA 58)

Jasber Singh

Journal article

Article in: PLA 58. Guest editors: Tom Wakeford and Jasber Singh.

The UK Nanojury was a re-working of the citizens’ jury approach to participation. Its most significant difference was that it was comprised of two topics. One was framed by the participants, who chose to focus on young people and exclusion, while the other topic, nanotechnologies, was framed by the jury’s funders and organisers. The explicit intention of the proposers of this second topic was to conduct public engagement ‘upstream’ – in advance of applications of the new technology becoming commercially available.

Yet this idea of ‘early’ public engagement with developing technologies proved problematic. It became clear that, upstream public engagement on nanotechnology was decontextualised from people’s everyday life experiences as highlighted in the Nanojury. As a result, upstream engagements is at a risk of becoming little more than a tool that bears no resemblance to peoples everyday realities. The Nanojury demonstrated that the concept of upstream engagement needs to be reconsidered. Public engagement focusing on technology should start from people’s own experiences and contexts, and so foster the development of new technologies better rooted in people’s needs.

Participatory Learning and Action (PLA, formerly PLA Notes) is the world's leading series on participatory learning and action approaches and methods. PLA publishes articles on participation aimed at practitioners, researchers, academics and activists. All articles are peer-reviewed by an international editorial board.

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