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Asunto:[LEA-Venezuela] La Mitad que Falta en la Politica Democratica de la Tecnologia
Fecha:Jueves, 2 de Mayo, 2002  14:23:00 (-0400)
Autor:interfaz <interfaz>

Usando el Criterio Democratico al Participar en Decisiones sobre Tecnologia.
© 1999 by Richard E. Sclove  ---  E-mail Loka@...


Using Democratic Criteria in Participatory Technology Decisions

© 1999 by Richard E. Sclove

The Loka Institute, P.O. Box 355, Amherst, MA 01004, USA

E-mail Loka@...;<http://b9x2r1/loka/index.html>;

Tel. +1-413-559-5860; Fax +1-413-559-5811

Nations such as the United States have evolved elaborate checks and
balances, enshrined in formal constitutions, for ensuring that we never
enact a new law that would subvert our basic constitutional principles and
cherished political values. By what perverse logic can we justify holding
technologies -- which plainly produce repercussions on social structure as
sweeping and profound as any law -- to a lesser standard?

Summary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (˝ page)

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 . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . .(3 pages)  Table 1: Questions For Examining Technologies'
Political Effects

5. Democratic Politics Versus Economics-As-Usual . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . (˝ page)

6. Next Steps (including What You Can Do) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . (˝ page)



About the Loka Institute

[Note: You are welcome to copy or reprint this essay in its entirety for
non-commercial purposes. However, commercial republication requires advance
permission from author Richard Sclove (E-mail Loka@...). ]

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 fulfillment of the democratic promise, thwarting
people's opportunities to establish the lives, communities, and societies
they wish.

In response, the Loka Institute has initiated a 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' structural social
impacts, today dominate decisions about technology.

Our immediate effort involves adapting "scenario workshops," a participatory
technology assessment method developed recently in Europe, to incorporate
the debate and use of criteria for evaluating technologies' social and
political significance.

Back to top

Using Democratic Criteria in Participatory Technology Decisions

by Richard Sclove <Sclove@...>, The Loka Institute

1. Democratizing Technology: Historical & Theoretical Background

No nation on earth has an effective system for taking into account the
profound effects that technologies exert on social and political structures,
including on fundamental democratic values and institutions.

Historic Example -- Improving Public Health/Compromising Democracy: In the
late 19th century, U.S. cities experienced epidemics of typhoid fever and
other diseases. Over time, public health experts identified the culprit as
sewage-contaminated drinking water supplies. Either local or state
governments could have taken charge of the needed clean-up, but political
centralization won out. State governments began appointing new public
authorities to manage water and sewage on a translocal, regional scale. The
result: public health improved dramatically, but local autonomy and
municipal democracy suffered.

Moreover, this case set a precedent emulated in other areas of
infrastructural improvement: roads, ports, energy sources, and telephone
services. In each case, civic decisions were shifted from municipalities
(where decision-making forums were often accessible to workers and everyday
citizens) to larger, more remote state and national political arenas (where
generally only wealthy businesses and individuals possessed the resources
needed to exert influence). By neglecting more local means that were
available at the time for addressing urban needs, the U.S. underwent a
fundamental change in political structure -- yet without any of the
political deliberation or due process that would normally be considered
appropriate to transformations of this character and import.[1]

In a more contemporary vein, I have written elsewhere of a "Cybernetic
Wal-Mart Effect" -- the danger that unregulated electronic commerce, by
draining revenue from local economies, could erode community vibrancy,
public spaces, and the buffering that a robust local economy affords against
the vagaries of impersonal global market forces. On all three counts, this
would impair conditions vital to healthy democratic self-governance. [2]

Interest in the relationship between technology and democracy has mushroomed
over the past decade, both among scholars and in practice. The vast majority
of this constructive effort has involved investigating the privileged role
of technical experts in technological and environmental decisions, or else
is concerned with new mechanisms for broadening participation in such

But from another perspective, all of this recent work is covering only half
of the necessary terrain. Consider a simple distinction between democratic
procedures versus their substantive results. Imagine, for example, a public
referendum on whether to abolish the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution
(that is, freedom of the press, the right of assembly, and so on). In this
case, the public referendum process -- that is, citizens voting for their
policy preferences -- is the democratic procedure, while the decision
ensuing from that process is the substantive result. Notice that democratic
procedures do not invariably result in democratic outcomes (for instance,
suppose the preceding hypothetical referendum were actually to abolish the
Bill of Rights).

This distinction can illuminate the sense in which recent work on the
relationship between democracy and technology, while immensely valuable, is
also seriously incomplete: These recent efforts are concerned exclusively
with democratic procedure in making decisions about technologies. But they
omit the equally important question of whether technologies are
substantively democratic -- that is, whether a technology's design and use
is compatible with perpetuating democratic social relations.[4]

This omission is non-trivial. Just recall the preceding examples of U.S.
sewage systems that compromised municipal democracy or the democratic
hazards associated with a Cybernetic Wal-Mart Effect. As Langdon Winner
wrote in a widely cited 1978 essay, "Do Artifacts Have Politics?":

"Technological innovations are similar to legislative acts or political
foundings that establish a framework for public order that will endure over
many generations. For that reason the same careful attention one would give
to the rules, roles, and relationships of politics must also be given to
such things as the building of highways . . . ."[5]

The dearth of practical, systematic effort to ensure that democratic
procedures issue in technologies that are substantively democratic -- i.e.,
that help, both individually and collectively, and both directly and
indirectly, to sustain democratic values, procedures and institutions -- is
what I call "the missing half" of a democratic politics of technology.

For instance, despite aspiring to conceptual comprehensiveness, the massive
Handbook of Science and Technology Studies -- compiled by the international
Society for Social Studies of Science -- does not even mention the issue.
Neither does Fairness and Competence in Citizen Participation, an otherwise
outstanding comparative evaluation of alternative methods in participatory
environmental decision-making prepared by Ortwin Renn and colleagues.[6]

In a world of pervasive technology, the recurring failure to consider the
impact of technologies on basic social and political structure is as
astonishing as it is ominous. In the absence of such effort, democratic
institutions will continue to be distorted, thwarted, and further
jeopardized by decision-making procedures -- ranging from market
interactions and technocratic policy analyses to even the most highly
evolved democratic procedures -- that fail to assist participants in
considering the structural social consequences of their decisions.[7]

Now, were it true that lay participants normally inquire deeply into the
implications of technologies for their society's basic structure, then this
concern could be addressed simply by continuing the political struggle for
"more democratic participation." However, case studies reveal that while lay
people do routinely raise significant social issues about technologies that
technical experts are prone to slight, they don't do so sufficiently deeply
and systematically to prevent unintended sociotechnological results,
including adverse effects on a society's basic democratic structure.[8]

Thus while contemporary industrial and postindustrial societies have grown
attentive to economic, health, environmental and selected ethical
repercussions of technologies, apparently our cultures still lack the
vocabulary, concepts, illustrative examples, and so on that would make it
feel natural and legitimate for lay participants to consider broader social,
cultural and political impacts in depth and systematically. That is where
new assistive tools or participatory procedures would be valuable.

Back to top

Cultural Aside: That this limitation is culture-specific rather than humanly
intrinsic is demonstrated by the long-running success of Old Order Amish
communities in screening technologies to ensure that Amish culture --
including its basic democratic character -- is perpetuated. Despite
prohibiting formal schooling past the age of fourteen, the Amish have
developed effective participatory processes for testing, debating, and
evaluating alternative technologies' social effects. Deploying these methods
within a social and political context that already embodies a rather robust
democratic character, they are able to make technological choices that
perpetuate their culture's democratic quality. As I have written elsewhere:
"If non-experts are incompetent to participate in technological decision
making, if it is impossible to learn to perceive technologies unplanned
structural social consequences, and if the difficulty of prediction poses an
insurmountable barrier to the practicability of a democratic politics of
technology, then somebody had better go tell the Old Order Amish." [9]

Back to top

2. Debating & Applying Democratic Design Criteria

Democracy and Technology: a book that I published in 1995, takes steps
toward addressing our need for tools for evaluating technologies' structural
social consequences by developing a set of provisional or "contestable"
democratic design criteria for technologies. For instance, one of the
criteria I proposed suggests that we should:

"Seek technologies that can enable disadvantaged individuals and groups to
participate fully in social, economic, and political life. Avoid
technologies that support illegitimately hierarchical power relations
between groups, organizations, or polities."[10]

The complete list of criteria developed in Democracy and Technology is
posted on the Web at A Provisional System of Design Criteria for Democratic
Technologies. Inasmuch as democracy is a precondition for setting other
social priorities fairly and effectively, the book argues that use of such
design criteria should, in principle, be a first-order consideration in
technological decisions. Against this standard, it is striking that, in
practice, so far no nation on earth has evolved a systematic capability to
take technologies' impacts on democracy into account even as a last-order
consideration. (Granting first-order consideration to technologies'
democratic impacts is an unfamiliar concept, but it is directly analogous to
the practice of ensuring that proposed legislation is consistent with the
first-order principles embodied in a nation's constitution.)[11]

Thus one approach to an adequate "democratic politics of technology" would
be to incorporate democratic processes for debating, refining, customizing
to local circumstances, and then applying such criteria in order to evaluate
technologies' effects on democratic social relations. My stress on the need
to debate and refine criteria underscores the notion that I intend these
criteria not as an endpoint, but merely as a conversational stimulant and
starting point -- albeit for a democratically vital conversation that, in
the absence of such stimulation, rarely occurs.[12]

However, Democracy and Technology has at least one core limitation that has
inhibited practical applications of its provisional democratic design
criteria. The book observes that crucial social impacts often emerge from
the interaction among seemingly unrelated technologies. Consider in the
United States the role of automobiles in driving pedestrians away from
streets -- a result now reflected and reinforced materially by the
elimination of front porches from homes and the creation of sprawled suburbs
that don't even have sidewalks -- and the complementary role of air
conditioning, central heating, television, and other home entertainment
devices in drawing people indoors. All of these technologies interact to
weaken face-to-face social interaction at the local level. A conventional
evaluation of a single technology -- say, air conditioning -- is unlikely to
detect such combined or synergistic effects.

On this basis, Democracy and Technology reasons that -- beyond debating and
refining democratic design criteria -- democratic processes are needed for
applying these criteria not only to one technology at a time, but also
comprehensively across a society's technological order.[13]

That's a pretty tall order: lay participants are expected to debate and
refine multiple democratic criteria, and then use them to evaluate the
combined effects of multiple technologies. Can human beings really do that?
Thus a central limitation of Democracy and Technology is that it does not
describe an institution or democratic procedure that would make this complex
task practicable.

Back to top

3. European Scenario Workshops

"Scenario workshops" -- a participatory technology assessment method
developed recently in Europe -- harbor the potential to be modified for this
purpose. The "scenario workshop" process was originally devised by the
Danish Parliament's Board of Technology (a technology assessment agency) in
1991-1993 to address the following question involving "urban
sustainability": How should Danish urban infrastructural systems be
reorganized or redesigned so that within two decades Danish cities satisfy
the Brundtland criterion for sustainability (i.e., "societies should meet
their present needs without impairing the ability of future generations to
meet their own needs")?[14]

The basic scenario workshop process is described succinctly elsewhere.[15]
For our purposes, key features are that the process begins with experts
preparing a base scenario that describes the current situation in a
community or society where a scenario workshop is going to be organized, and
then four alternative future scenarios. Each future scenario portrays the
use of multiple technologies in structuring future daily life, thereby
answering two questions about achieving sustainability: "Who shall act,
individuals or institutions?" and "How shall they act -- i.e., by adopting
different technologies or by altering human/social behavior while using
current technologies?"

In the case of the original Danish scenario workshops on sustainability, the
four future scenarios for achieving sustainability included:  An
individuals/high-tech strategy
 An individuals/low-tech strategy
 A government authority/high-tech strategy
 A citizen groups/low-tech strategy

A singular strength of these scenarios is that they are written as simple,
engaging two-page narratives of daily life that virtually anyone can easily
understand (i.e., no intimidating graphs or numerical tables). To give the
flavor of a typical scenario, here is the opening passage of the first
future scenario (individuals/high-tech) from the original Danish scenario
workshop on sustainability:

Back to top

"Mr. Knud Hansen is on his way home from work. Five minutes before reaching
the house, he rings the kitchen on his mobile phone to ask the freezer to
transfer a ready-made eco-meal to the microwave oven. It is his turn to cook
today. The meal will be ready by the time he walks in the front door. At the
same time he turns on the heating. Today he took the car to work, but he
often works at home sitting in front of the computer screen. This can
sometimes be a fairly lonely existence when none of the other members of the
family are at home. Personal meetings with business connections are still
important, and he and his family also use the car for journeys to and from
some of their many leisure activities. One of the things they all go to is
folk dancing on Wednesday evenings."[16]

Each two-page future scenario narrative is followed by a succinct analysis
in which the basic norm of "environmental sustainability" is broken down and
presented in terms of simple, subsidiary criteria (such as kilowatts of
electricity consumed per person per day, kilograms of solid waste recycled
per person per day, liters of grey-water reused per person per day, and so

Scenario workshops on sustainability use the four initial future scenarios
as the starting point for a participatory process in which diverse groups of
stakeholders:  Constructively criticize each future scenario;
 Rather than chose directly among these, use the refashioned scenarios as a
starting point for developing their own preferred vision of how they would
like their community or society to become sustainable;
 Identify barriers (e.g., cultural, institutional, technical, economic, and
legal) to realizing their preferred vision; and
 Craft action plans for overcoming these barriers.

In European implementations of scenario workshops, the organizers have most
often chosen the workshop participants from four affected and influential
role groups in any given local community or city: local government
officials, business leaders, technical experts, and knowledgeable local

The impact of scenario workshops in Europe has already been significant and
is growing. The original scenario workshops on sustainability were conducted
in four Danish cities in 1992, and the Danish Board of Technology also
aggregated the results to produce a national plan for overcoming the
barriers to achieving sustainable cities. This plan has been adopted by the
Danish Parliament and is now being implemented.[17] Follow-on scenario
workshops conducted in the Netherlands have influenced both local
sustainability initiatives (e.g., water management in the city of Ede) and
national science policy deliberations. The European Commission has more
recently launched a European Awareness Scenario Workshop (EASW) program,
which has facilitated the organization of scenario workshops on
sustainability in more than 40 European cities, in turn stimulating
consolidation of, and learning among, an international network of cities
committed to complying with the 1992 Rio accords on the global environment.
This process of European diffusion and further elaboration is ongoing,
including by developing scenario workshops on new topics, such as social
cohesion, societal accessibility, or urban transportation and mobility.[18]

Back to top

4. Using Democratic Criteria Within Scenario Workshops

With respect to the crucial "missing half" of a democratic politics of
technology, the intriguing features of the scenario workshop methodology are
that it is a participatory assessment process that has been shown capable of
investigating many technologies at once (e.g., simultaneous and integrative
consideration of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources; water and sewage
management; and solid waste reduction, recycling, reuse and disposal) using
multiple criteria (e.g., the diverse subsidiary criteria of "sustainability"
used during the original Danish scenario workshops).

Together, the italicized terms in the preceding sentence exhibit exactly the
logic required for realizing the missing substantive component of a
democratic politics of technology -- that is, a participatory process that
can apply multiple criteria to multiple technologies. The important
remaining question is whether the multiple criteria used to assess
sustainability within scenario workshops can be supplemented with additional
criteria for assessing technologies' structural social and political

Toward this end, Table 1, below, translates the prescriptive democratic
design criteria developed in Democracy and Technology into open-ended
questions and simpler, more self-explanatory language. Each question is
intended to support participants in identifying the various direct and
indirect ways that technologies can influence the structural conditions
necessary to a healthy democracy:

Back to top

Table 1. Questions for Examining Technologies' Political Effects
© 1999 by Richard Sclove <Sclove@...>, The Ioka Institute


Equality: Do the technologies in your vision support social relations in
which power is shared relatively equally or unequally throughout society?

Cultural Diversity: Do these technologies respect cultural diversity? With
such technologies in use, how do you foresee the quality of interaction
between different communities and cultures?

Individualism And Commonality: Do the technologies in your vision offer
people a reasonable balance between time alone and time interacting with
others? Are there occasions for people to discover and build areas of common

Empowerment: Are there technologies in your vision that would either hinder
or assist socially disadvantaged individuals and groups in participating
fully in social or economic life?

Self-Organization: How would the technologies in your vision influence
peoples' abilities to form themselves into effective groups and voluntary
associations of their own choosing?


Personal Growth: How would the technologies and built environment in your
vision affect people's opportunities to develop their individual talents and
to pursue their preferred lifeplans?

Technological Burdens: Are there any activities in your vision -- whether
explicit or implicit -- that might be especially boring, demeaning, harmful,
or harshly stressful? If so, do you see these undesirable activities being
widely shared, or would only a minority of people have to do them?

Citizenship: How do you think the technologies in your vision would affect
individuals' moral growth and readiness to act as responsible citizens?

Social Learning: Do the technologies and architecture in your vision give
people lots of chances to learn about themselves and their world? Are there
many opportunities for people to discuss, debate, and share what they know?


Centralization/Decentralization: Would the technologies in your vision tend
to be compatible more with centralized (e.g., bureaucratic or managerial) or
decentralized (e.g., socially diffused or collaborative) decision making?

Federation: How would the technologies in your vision influence the
structure and process of federation--that is, relations between national,
local, and other political levels? For example:  Exporting Harm: Would any
of these technologies export pollution or other kinds of harm from one
community to others? Could this provoke conflict among communities and
higher level political intervention?
 Provincialism/Cosmopolitanism: Would these technologies affect the social
balance between provincial outlooks (e.g., taking into account only the
concerns of your own group or locality) and more broad-minded "global"
 Civil Rights And Civil Liberties: How would these technologies influence
the protection of fundamental human and civil rights and civil liberties,
including minority rights?

Economic Self-Reliance: Do technologies in your vision tend to support
community economic self-reliance -- that is, community production for
community consumption? How would this affect a community's ability to govern
its own affairs?

Democratic Governance: How do technologies in your vision affect the
structure, and democratic responsiveness and accountability, of social
institutions (such as businesses, financial institutions, and government


Sustainability: Are the technologies in your vision consistent with the idea
that people should meet their present needs without reducing the ability of
future generations to meet their own needs?

Flexibility: Are these technologies flexible -- e.g., would they allow
people to change their minds about how they want to live? If some people
start to use these technologies, could that force other people to adopt the
same technologies, or in any other way narrow other people's social or
technological options?

Vulnerability: Are there any technologies in your vision that would be
vulnerable to catastrophic sabotage?

Democratic Security: Are there any technologies in your vision that would
impair international peace and security, or democracy in other communities
and nations?


Suppose that your vision is fully realized. What would be the problems?

Back to top

The Loka Institute's project on "Identifying Democratic Technologies" has
developed a plan for introducing the debate and use of these democratic
questions into the scenario workshop process. In our plan, these questions
will be posed, answered, and evaluated by participants during the workshop
itself (rather than -- as with the criteria of sustainability used in the
original Danish scenario workshops -- deployed initially by expert analysts
prior to the workshop).

Introducing democratic questions into participatory processes is not
customary, but in at least one important sense it is natural and makes
sense. After all, participatory processes already implicitly acknowledge --
in virtue of being participatory -- the centrality of democracy as a social
value. That is why such processes are chosen to be participatory, rather
than adopting easier and less time-consuming decision-making approaches,
such as autocratic fiat. But if democracy is honored in the process of
participation, it seems equally reasonable and important to empower
participants to ask how the eventual outcome of a participatory process is
going to affect their society's basic democratic structure (that is, the
possibility of fair and effective democratic participation in the future, on
this and any other issues). The purpose of introducing democratic questions
is thus not at all to encourage participants to prefer any particular,
preordained technology or technological design to another, but rather to
grant them cultural permission and support to explore important issues that
tend otherwise unconsciously to be neglected.

Experience in organizing participatory decision-making processes suggests
that it would be a mistake to ask each workshop participant individually to
answer the complete list of questions shown in Table 1. (Ask anyone
voluntarily to deploy a list with more than about three items, and they
almost always fall asleep.) Instead, we plan to ask each participant to take
responsibility for posing just one or two of the questions throughout the
workshop. Attention to the full set of questions will thus emerge gradually
through group process. We have also developed a simple, playful exercise
through which participants will evaluate and propose revisions in these

The final question in Table 1 ("Suppose that your vision is fully realized;
what would be the problems?") is of a different character than the rest.
Whereas all the prior questions are intended to stimulate participants
inquiry into technologies' effects on basic social or political structure,
this final question would be posed to the entire group near the end of a
scenario workshop in order to stimulate inquiry into unplanned dynamic or
second-order sociotechnological effects. (A simple example of such effects:
If one proposes to reduce household energy and water consumption via
high-tech "smart" houses, then among the second-order effects might be the
creation of new businesses and jobs in designing, installing and maintaining
these systems, as well as additional social and environmental effects
associated with those new business activities.)

Introducing all the questions from Table 1 into a scenario workshop on
sustainability in effect will expand the overarching workshop question to:
"How can we reorganize all of our infrastructural systems over the next 20
years so that our community becomes environmentally sustainable, while also
maintaining or improving the character of our democracy?"

Back to top

5. Democratic Politics Versus Economics-As-Usual

Using democratic questions within scenario workshops is one promising
approach to supplying the missing, substantive half of a democratic politics
of technology. Doubtless many other valuable approaches are conceivable;
thus one aspiration of the Loka Institute's new project on Identifying
Democratic Technologies is to stimulate others to seek new methods for
empowering people to grasp and guide the deeper social significance of the
technologies that seem almost daily to make, unmake, and remake our lives.

Of course, today most technological decisions are economically driven,
either by competitive market forces, by the lobbying of economically
motivated interest groups, or by technocratic policy analyses (e.g., formal
cost-risk-benefit analyses or applied neoclassical welfare economics) that
are themselves grounded in conventional economic theory. Indeed, in many
quarters it has become taken for granted that economic considerations and
calculations provide the sole rational basis for making decisions. However,
these diverse economic approaches all suffer the crippling limitation that
they are incapable of grasping technologies' indirect structural
consequences -- even though attending to a society's basic structure ought
always to be a first-order public concern.[19]

Nations such as the United States have evolved elaborate checks and
balances, enshrined in formal constitutions, for ensuring that we never
enact a new law that would subvert our basic constitutional principles and
cherished political values. By what perverse logic can we justify holding
technologies -- which plainly produce structural social repercussions as
sweeping and profound as any law -- to a lesser standard?[20]

Economically-grounded methods are fundamentally incapable of seeing or
caring that we need sewer systems that protect public health . . . but
without sacrificing municipal democracy. Internet commerce can be a fine
thing . . . provided that democratic community life and democratic
self-governance are not made sacrificial victims to a Cybernetic Wal-Mart
Effect. The speed and freedom of private automobiles, the blessed comforts
of air conditioning and central heating, and the pleasures provided by music
videos and cable television must not blind us to the combined harm such
technological marvels have apparently wrought upon our civic life.

The answer is not, of course, to turn our backs on technology or economics.
But we must recognize that a healthy society is one that honors technology
and the economy by subordinating both to the prerequisites of democracy and
to other democratically decided social priorities.[21] When that happens, we
will find that we can have satisfying jobs, public health, personal security
and national security, comfort, convenience, entertainment, innovation and,
yes, even economic efficiency in forms that are compatible with -- not
counterfeit surrogates for -- our highest democratic ideals. That is, we can
have the preceding social goods and democracy too . . . but only once we
learn to scrutinize technologies for their structural social and political

The urgent need to restore technology, the economy, and economic theory to
their proper stations as handmaidens rather than usurpers of democracy is
the animating force behind the Loka Institute's new project on Identifying
Democratic Technologies.

Back to top

6. Next Steps (including What You Can Do)

Send Your Comments on this essay, or on the Loka Institute's project on
Identifying Democratic Technologies, to Richard Sclove <Sclove@...>.

Pilot Tests, Venues, And PartnershipsPilot Tests, Venues, And Partnerships:
The Loka Institute is currently seeking venues, institutional partners, and
funding that will enable us to test these new participatory tools in
practice. We are interested, of course, in testing the democratic questions
listed in Table 1 (above) within one or more scenario workshops on
sustainability. But we are also interested in testing them within scenario
workshops on other topics, or within other methods of particpatory
technology decision-making (such as participatory design or deliberative
citizens' panels on technology policy.) If you are seriously interested in
assisting or partnering in such an effort, please contact the Loka Institute
at If you are seriously interested in assisting or partnering in such an
effort, please contact the Loka Institute at <Loka@...>.

Back to top


My work on scenario workshops using democratic design criteria has
benefitted enormously from the advice of Ida Andersen, Lars Klüver, and
Steffen Stripp (Danish Board of Technology); Morten Elle and Michael
Sřrgaard Jřrgensen (Danish Technical University); Yvonne van Delft and
Tjeerd Deelstra (International Institute for the Urban Environment, The
Netherlands); Francisco Fernandez (Innovation Program, D.G. XIII, European
Commission); Sarah Kuhn (University of Massachusetts-Lowell); Susan Cozzens
(Georgia Tech); David Rejeski (U.S. Council on Environmental Quality); Bart
Schultz (University of Chicago); Paul Stern (U.S. National Research
Council); Thomas Webler (Antioch New England Graduate School); Douglas K.
Taylor (The Loka Institute); and several insightful anonymous reviewers.

This work has been made possible to date thanks to the financial support of
the National Science Foundation (NSF Award No. SBR-981003), the Danish Board
of Technology, the Dept. of Technology & Social Science at the Danish
Technical University, the European Awareness Scenario Workshop program, and
thanks to general support to the Loka Institute from the John D. & Catherine
T. MacArthur Foundation, the Albert A. List Foundation, the Menemsha Fund,
and the generosity of individual Loka Institute donors.

I am grateful to the Innovation Program of the European Commission for the
honor and trust bestowed in making me the first non-European officially
appointed as a National Monitor in the European Awareness Scenario Workshop
program (certifying my qualifications to develop and organize scenario
workshops at the national and international levels.)

Thanks to one and all! -- Dick Sclove, The Loka Institute

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1. Richard E. Sclove, Democracy and Technology (New York and London:
Guilford Press, 1995), pp. 119-129. [Return to text.]

2. See, for example, Richard E. Sclove and Jeffrey Scheuer, "The Ghost in
the Modem: For Architects of the Info-Highway, Some Lessons From the
Concrete Interstate," Sunday Outlook Section, The Washington Post, 29 May
1994, p. C3; Richard E. Sclove and Jeffrey Scheuer "On the Road Again?: If
Information Highways Are Anything Like Interstate Highways--Watch Out!," in
Rob Kling, ed., Computerization and Controversy: Value Conflicts and Social
Choices (2nd ed., San Diego: Academic Press, 1996), pp. 606-612; Richard
Sclove, "The Democratic Uses of Technology," Thought and Action: The NEA
Higher Education Journal, vol. 14, no. 1 (Spring 1998), pp. 9-18. [Return to
3. See, for example, David Dickson, The New Politics of Science (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1988); Joseph G. Morone and Edward J.
Woodhouse, The Demise of Nuclear Energy: Lessons for Democratic Control of
Technology (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989); Daniel J. Fiorino,
"Environmental Risk and Democratic Process: A Critical Review," Columbia
Journal of Environmental Law, vol. 14 (1989), pp. 501-547; Daniel J.
Fiorino, "Citizen Participation and Environmental Risk: A Survey of
Institutional Mechanisms." Science, Technology, and Human Values, vol. 15,
no. 2 (Spring 1990), pp. 226-43; Frank Fischer, Technocracy and the Politics
of Expertise (Newbury Park: Sage, 1990); Philip J. Frankenfeld,
"Technological Citizenship: A Normative Framework for Risk Studies,"
Science, Technology, and Human Values, vol. 17, no. 4 (August 1992), pp.
459-484; Technology and Democracy: The Use and Impact of Technology
Assessment in Europe, Proceedings of the 3rd European Congress on Technology
Assessment, Copenhagen, 4-7 November 1992, 2 vols. (Copenhagen:
TeknologiNaevnet [Danish Board of Technology], 1992); Ĺke Sandberg, et al.,
Technological Change and Co-Determination in Sweden (Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 1992); Frank N. Laird, "Participatory Analysis, Democracy,
and Technological Decision Making," Science, Technology, and Human Values,
vol. 18, no. 3 (Summer 1993), pp. 341-61; Gary Chapman and Joel Yudken, The
21st Century Project: Setting a New Course for Science and Technology Policy
(Palo Alto: Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, 1993), pp.
169-189; Sandra Harding, Sandra, ed., The "Racial" Economy of Science:
Toward a Democratic Future (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993);
Ortwin Renn, Thomas Webler, and Peter Weidemann, eds., Fairness and
Competence in Citizen Participation: Evaluating Models for Environmental
Discourse (Dordrecht, Boston and London: Kluwer Academic, 1995); John Doble,
"Public Opinion About Issues Characterized By Technological Complexity and
Scientific Uncertainty," Public Understanding of Science, vol. 4 (1995), pp.
95-118; Simon Joss and John Durant, eds., Public Participation in Science:
The Role of Consensus Conferences in Europe (London: Science Museum, 1995);
Andrew D. Zimmerman, "Toward a More Democratic Ethic of Technological
Governance," Science, Technology, and Human Values, vol. 20, no. 1 (Winter
1995), pp. 86-107; Technical Expertise and Public Decisions: Proceedings of
the 1996 International Symposium on Technology and Society, June 21-22, The
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton
University, Princeton, New Jersey (Piscataway, NJ: Institute of Electrical
and Electronics Engineers, 1996); Paul C. Stern and Harvey V. Fineberg,
eds., Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society
(Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1996); Technology and Democracy:
Comparative Perspectives, Proceedings from the January 1997 TMV Conference,
5 vols. (Oslo, Norway: TMV Center for Technology and Culture, University of
Oslo, 1997); J. Grin, et al., Technology Assessment Through Interaction: A
Guide (The Hague, The Netherlands: Rathenau Institute, 1997); Carl Mitcham,
"Justifying Public Participation in Technical Decision Making," IEEE
Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 16, no. 1 (Spring 1997), pp. 40-46;
Thomas Webler, "Organizing Public Participation: A Review of Three
Handbooks," Human Ecology Review, vol. 3, no. 1 (1997), pp. 245-254; Thomas
Webler, and Seth Tuler, eds., "Human Ecology Forum: Essays and Commentary"
["Varying Perspectives on the U.S. National Research Council's Understanding
Risk Report"], Human Ecology Review, vol. 5, no. 1 (Summer 1998), pp. 35-64;
Rebecca Henderson Chatfield, Sarah Kuhn, and Michael Muller, eds., PDC 98:
Proceedings of the Participatory Design Conference, Seattle, Washington,
USA, 12-14 November 1998 (Palo Alto, CA: Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility, 1998); Rene von Schomberg, ed., Democratising Technology:
Theory and Practice of a Deliberative Technology Policy (Hengelo, The
Netherlands: International Centre for Human and Public Affairs, 1999); Brian
Martin, ed., Technology and Public Participation (Wollongong, Australia:
Science and Technology Studies, University of Wollongong, 1999). [Return to

4. On the distinction between democratic procedure and democratic substance
as it applies to technology, see Richard E. Sclove, Democracy and Technology
(New York and London: Guilford Press, 1995), esp. pp. 26-33. [Return to

5. Winner's 1978 essay is reprinted in Langdon Winner, The Whale and the
Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1986), chap. 2; the quote is from pp. 28-29 of
the latter chapter. For an earlier articulation of Winner's perspective, see
Lewis Mumford's seminal article, "Authoritarian and Democratic Technics,"
Technology and Culture, vol. 5, no. 1(Winter 1964), pp. 1-8. [Return to

6. Sheila Jasanoff, Gerald E. Markle, James C. Petersen, and Trevor Pinch,
eds., Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Publications, 1995); Ortwin Renn, Thomas Webler, and Peter Weidemann, eds.,
Fairness and Competence in Citizen Participation: Evaluating Models for
Environmental Discourse (Dordrecht, Boston and London: Kluwer Academic,
1995). The closest attempts to heeding Lewis Mumford's 1964 call to develop
a "democratic technics" involved the 1970's heyday of the appropriate
technology movement and, recently, the more narrowly focused hopes being
invested by some in the Internet and in other new telecommunications
technologies. On the appropriate technology movement, see David Dickson,
Alternative Technology and the Politics of Technical Change (Great Britain:
Fontana/Collins, 1974); Ken Darrow, and Mike Saxenian, Appropriate
Technology Sourcebook: A Guide to Practical Books for Village and Small
Community Technology) Stanford, CA: Volunteers in Asia Press, 1986); and
Langdon Winner, The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of
High Technology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), chap. 4. On
democratic hopes and limitations involving telecommunications see, for
example, Christa Daryl Slaton, Televote: Expanding Citizen Participation in
the Quantum Age (New York: Praeger, 1992); Lawrence K. Grossman, The
Electronic Republic: Reshaping Democracy in the Information Age (New York:
Viking, 1995); Richard E. Sclove, Democracy and Technology (New York and
London: Guilford Press, 1995), pp. 30-31, 79-81, 108, 135-138, 237-238;
Douglas Schuler, New Community Networks: Wired For Change (Reading, MA:
Addison Wesley, 1996); Richard E. Sclove and Jeffrey Scheuer "On the Road
Again?: If Information Highways Are Anything Like Interstate Highways--Watch
Out!," in Rob Kling, ed., Computerization and Controversy: Value Conflicts
and Social Choices (2nd ed., San Diego: Academic Press, 1996), pp. 606-612;
Richard Sclove, "The Democratic Uses of Technology," Thought and Action: The
NEA Higher Education Journal, vol. 14, no. 1 (Spring 1998), pp. 9-18; Robert
W. McChesney, Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy (New York: Seven
Stories Press, 1997); and Hubertus Buchstein and Jodi Dean, eds., "Special
Section: Democratizing Technology/Technologizing Democracy," Constellations,
vol. 4, no. 2 (1997), pp. 205-282, and Manuel Castells' magisterial account
of the role of information technologies in advancing economic globalization,
thereby promoting a crisis of democracy -- hopelessly fragmented citizenries
chafing under the tenuous sovereignty of weakened states (Manual Castells,
The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, 3 vols. [Oxford, U.K.:
Blackwell, 1976, 1977, 1998]). [Return to text.]

7. This is a central theoretical point developed in Richard E. Sclove,
Democracy and Technology (New York and London: Guilford Press, 1995).
[Return to text.]

8. Sclove, Democracy and Technology, (note 7, above), pp. 48-53, 191-195.
[Return to text] or  [Click  to read a sample evaluation of the extent to
which technology assessment participants take into account the issues
bearing on their society's democratic structure] or
 [Click  to read more about various kinds of social structural effects
produced by technologies].

9. See Sclove, Democracy and Technology, (note 7, above), pp. 6-9, 56-59,
173. [Return to text.]

10. The quoted democratic design criterion is derived in Sclove, Democracy
and Technology, (note 7, above), pp. 109-118. The nine democratic design
criteria proposed in Democracy and Technology are developed and discussed on
pp. 59-151; the argument for developing and using such criteria is developed
and discussed on pp. 26-33, 155-160. Published reviews of Democracy and
Technology include: Mark B. Brown in Organization and Environment (Sept.
1997), pp. 321-324; Matthew Wald in The New York Times Book Review, 25 Feb.
1996; Bart Schultz in Ethics, vol. 107, no. 2 (January 1997), pp. 364-366;
Arthur B. Shostak in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social
Science, vol. 546 (July 1996), pp. 176-177; Steve Cohn in Ecological
Economics Bulletin, vol.2, no. 4 (1997), p. 12; Daniel Sarewitz, "Caveat
Emptor: Review of Democracy and Technology by Richard E. Sclove," Issues in
Science and Technology, vol. 12, no. 4 (Summer 1996), pp. 87-90; David
Hakken, "Democratizing Technology?," Science as Culture, vol. 6, part 1
(1996), pp. 149-152; Jeffrey M. Berry in Journal of the American Planning
Association (Spring 1997), pp. 287-289. Carl Mitcham in Technology and
Culture, vol. 38, no. 2 (April 1997), pp. 531-533; Howard Rheingold in
Wired, Nov. 1996, p. 219; Keith Jones in Journal of Urban Technology, vol.
3, no. 2 (1996), pp. 97-99; Tom Wakeford in Science, Technology, and Human
Values, vol. 22, no. 3 (Summer 1997), pp. 388-390; Thomas C. Hilde in
Canadian Philosophy Review, vol. 16, no. 3; Michael Kreek in Human Economy
newsletter, vol. 15, no. 2 (Spring 1996), pp. 9-10; Lee F. Kerckhove in
Teaching Philosophy, vol. 21, no. 3 (Sept. 1998), pp. 283-285; Howard A.
Doughty in Innovation Journal, 18 May 1998; and Kenneth Westhues in Catholic
New Times, 26 May 1996, p. 13. Schultz and Mitcham question the reliance of
Democracy and Technology on a neo-Kantian normative foundation, but they do
not challenge the book's provisional democratic design criteria. It's fun to
read the Hakken and Berry reviews side by side: the former takes me to task
for regarding "capitalism and democratic technology as largely compatible";
the latter complains that Democracy and Technology is "an unremitting attack
on capitalism." My reaction to these polar opposite interpretations: I enjoy
watching the discomfort one engenders by not fitting neatly into people's
preconceived categories. Less facetiously: part of the confusion results
from Berry and Haaken's failure to consider that that there might be many
alternative actual and possible forms of capitalism. The current, globally
dominant forms of capitalism are, in my view, antidemocratic in many
respects. However, I can imagine various alternative capitalisms that, while
not democratically ideal, would offer more scope for democracy than what we
see now. See also note [12], below. [Return to text.]

11. See Sclove, Democracy and Technology, (note 7, above), pp. 26-32, 36-37,
157-158, 239-241. [Return to text.]

12. This is a point overlooked by critics Sheila Jasanoff, "Review of
Democracy and Technology," American Political Science Review, 90, no. 3
(Sept. 1996), pp. 659-660; Rein de Wilde, "Sublime Futures: Reflections on
the Modern Faith in the Compatibility of Community, Democracy, and
Technology," in Sissel Myklebust, ed., Technology and Democracy: Obstacles
to Democratization -- Productivism and Technocracy (Oslo: TMV, Center for
Technology and Culture, University of Oslo, 1997), pp. 29-49; and Rob Slade,
"Review of Democracy and Technology," Democracy and Technology," The Risks
Digest, vol. 20, no. 5 (6 Nov. 1998). My published response to de Wilde
appears as Richard E. Sclove, "Lost in de WILDErness: A Brief Foray Into the
Sublime Mysteries of Technology, Democracy, Charles Lindbergh, Rein de
Wilde, and Dr. Pangloss," in Myklebust, ed., Technology and Democracy, pp.
51-62. My answer to Slade appears as Richard Sclove, "Author Response to
Slade Review of Democracy and Technology," The Risks Digest, vol. 20, no. 11
(8 Dec. 1998). [Return to text.] or  [Click  to read about potential
alternatives to using democratic criteria.]

13. Sclove, Democracy and Technology, (note 7, above), pp. 31-33, 99,
155-157, 198, 208, 217-222. [Return to text.]

14. World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future [The
Brundtland Report], (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987). [Return to

15. Ida Andersen, et al., "The Scenario Workshop in Technology Assessment,"
in Technology and Democracy: The Use and Impact of Technology Assessment in
Europe, Proceedings of the 3rd European Congress on Technology Assessment,
Copenhagen, 4-7 November 1992, vol. II (Copenhagen: TeknologiNaevnet [Danish
Board of Technology], 1992), pp. 446-455; and Penny Street, "Scenario
Workshops: A Participatory Approach to Sustainable Urban Living," Futures,
vol. 29, no. 2 (1997), pp.139-158. Extensive information about European
scenario workshops is also available from the Web site of the European
Awareness Scenario Workshop program of the European Commission at
<>;. The European scenario workshop method
discussed here is significantly different from scenario workshops that have
originated in the business world; for an accessible introduction to the
latter, see Peter Warshall, et al., "Scenarios for the Future," Whole Earth,
no. 96 [Spring 1999], pp. 76-111. In the business world, the focus of a
scenario workshop tends to be on building several alternative predictive
world scenarios, with respect to which participants attempt to craft
matching adaptive contingency plans for their corporation. European scenario
workshops, in contrast, assume a more malleable, socially constructed world.
That is, rather than assume that the world is an external given to which
they must adapt, diverse participants strive to craft a common normative
vision of what they would like their community or society to become in the
future, and then they devise action plans for making their vision come true.
[Return to text.]

16. From Morton Elle, Urban Ecology of the Future, trans. Rob Bilderbeek
(Copenhagen: Danish Board of Technology, 1993), p. 31; available on the Web
at <>;. [Return to text.]

17. Barriers to Urban Ecology, Project Publication No. 2/1993 (Copenhagen:
TeknologiNaevnet [Danish Board of Technology], 1993). [Return to text.]

18. European Awareness Scenario Workshops: First Meeting of the National
Monitors, 23rd of May 1997, Luxembourg (Luxembourg: European Commission
Directorate General, 1997); Penny Street, "Scenario Workshops: A
Participatory Approach to Sustainable Urban Living," Futures, vol. 29, no. 2
(1997), pp.139-158; Igor Stefan Mayer, Debating Technologies: A
Methodological Contribution to the Design and Evaluation of Participatory
Policy Analysis (Tilburg, The Netherlands: Tilburg University Press, 1997),
p. 102 and chap. 5; and Fleximodo Manual (Delft, The Netherlands:
International Institute for the Urban Environment, 1998). [Return to text.]

19. This argument concerning deficiencies in neoclassical welfare economics,
cost-benefit analysis, and allied techniques is elaborated in Sclove,
Democracy and Technology, (note 7, above), pp. 161-179. [Return to text.]

20. The argument that technologies and societal legislation are functionally
analogous species of social structures is worked out in Sclove, Democracy
and Technology, (note 7, above), pp. 10-24. [Return to text.]

21. Compare Karl Polanyi's notion that it is essential to "re-embed" the
economy in society, rather than allow the economy to become a socially
disembedded (i.e., autonomous) force that dictates macro-sociopolitical
outcomes. See Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and
Economic Origins of Our Time (1949; reprinted Boston: Beacon Press, 1957);
Karl Polanyi, Primitive, Archaic and Modern Economies: Essays of Karl
Polanyi, George Dalton, ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971); Fred Block and
Margaret R. Somers, "Beyond the Economistic Fallacy: The Holistic Social
Science of Karl Polanyi," in Theda Skocpol, ed., Vision and Method in
Historical Sociology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp.
47-84. [Return to text.]

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Community Research Network
 Deliberative Citizens' Panels on Science & Technology
 Identifying Democratic Technologies
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