Deliberative Democracy and Expertise: New Directions for 21st Century Technology Assessment

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Virginia Tech

This dissertation presents the case for a normative vision of the relationship between technical experts and other non-expert members of a democratic citizenry. This vision is grounded in two key insights that have emerged from the field of science and technology studies. First, is the "third wave" science studies movement that identifies problems of expertise as the "pressing intellectual problem of the age." Characterized by the problems of legitimacy and extension, Collins and Evans build the case for the extension of the category of expertise to include those who have the relevant experience but lack relevant accreditation. Alongside this extension of the category of expertise is the extension of those who participate in the framing of techno-scientific issues. This dissertation builds a case for the inclusion of all democratic citizens in the problem framing process. What we are left with from the current "third wave" literature is a multi-tiered prescription for the role of non-experts in public decision-making about science and technology. On the ground floor, when the issue is being framed there is a need to include non-expert stakeholders (in theory, any concerned democratic citizen). Once a framing of the problem has been constructed, there is a need to recognize a larger category of people who count as "expert." Together, these constitute the two most powerful prescriptive elements of expertise developed in the recent science studies literature. The dissertation then explores claims that it is specifically "deliberative" theories of democracy that are best suited to make sense out of this democratization of expertise. After presenting a typology of deliberative theories of democracy that clears up a serious problem of equivocation found in appeals to deliberative democracy in current STS literature, this dissertation argues that only a specific set of deliberative theories of democracy, "discursive" deliberative theories of democracy, are capable of fulfilling the role theories of deliberative democracy are assigned in current STS literature. The dissertation then goes on to suggest how these new insights into the democratization of expertise might affect future instantiations of technology assessment mechanisms (such as the office of Technology Assessment) in the U.S.

public participation, technology assessment, technology policy, science policy, deliberative democracy, democratizing expertise