KONOPÁSEK, Z. / SONERYD, L. / SVAČINA, K. (2018): Lost in translation: Czech dialogues by Swedish design. Science & Technology Studies, 31 (3): 5-23::::
This study explores the journey of a model for stakeholder involvement called RISCOM. Originally developed within the field of radioactive waste management in Sweden, it was later used in the Czech Republic to re-establish public dialogue in the process of siting a geological repository. This case offers an opportunity to empirically study the fragility and ambiguous results of organized spread of public involvement across various domains of technological innovation and national contexts. We show how three circumstances – (1) the ambition to make RISCOM an internationally used model for public dialogue, (2) the specific situation in the Czech siting process, and (3) the short-lived and limited success of the subsequent Czech dialogues by Swedish design – were intrinsically related and sustained each other. Better understanding of such complexities might contribute to a more realistic attitude toward technologized democracy, i.e., toward practices of public deliberation increasingly becoming instrumental, transferable, and depoliticized.
KONOPÁSEK, Z. / SONERYD, L. & SVAČINA, K. (2014): Czech Dialogues by Swedish Design. Working paper of the InSOTEC project (WP 2). Available at http://www.insotec.eu/publications/topical-reports::::
Transferring an elaborate design to a different setting is always an intricate business with uncertain results. This report takes this well-known lesson as a starting point for a study of the travel of a ready-made design for public dialogue on geological disposal. We want to discuss how established participative procedures are made to travel from one national context to another under the auspices of the EU and what the limits and consequences of such transfers are. The interesting thing for us is not only how the target setting is changed or not by the newly introduced practices, but also how the relatively well established participatory “technology” is itself being transformed during its transmission and implementation. Successes and failures of such a transfer have to be seen and assessed against the background of these mutual accommodations, translations and betrayals. Thus, our general interest is the fragility and ambiguous results of intentional and systematic spread of technical democracy across national and political contexts. More precisely, we will follow and critically discuss the story of how a Swedish design for public dialogues called RISCOM was transferred to the Czech Republic. We are going to show that, on the one hand, RISCOM made an important achievement in the Czech case, since it helped to bring all the main actors to a discussion table after previous negotiations had completely crashed. On the other hand, however, it seems that RISCOM substantially failed from a broader perspective. It found its way in the Czech Republic only at the cost of losing its specific original characteristics (and emphasizing new ones, rather controversial). As such, it quickly became associated with only too general appeals to dialogue, the attractiveness of which lived but shortly. It contributed to the increasing focus on dialogue per se, which ultimately led to frustration and impatience on both sides. This recently resulted in the shift toward more authoritative decision making in the Czech Republic and another crisis of mutual trust.
KONOPÁSEK, Z. & SVAČINA, K. (2014): Siting the Nuclear Waste Repository in the Czech Republic: Twists and Turns Towards Technical Democracy. Working paper of the InSOTEC project (WP 2). Available at http://www.insotec.eu/publications/topical-reports::::
We are going to present a story of a double turn: first, the turn toward deliberative procedures orchestrated by the implementer; this turn came after the initial period of expert driven decision making had led to public protests and failed. Second, we describe a turn back toward more authoritative and technocratic decision making after several-years long attempt at “technical democracy”, to use this famous term (Callon, Lascoumes & Barthe 2009), did not bring expected results quickly enough. While the former kind of turn appears relatively frequently in literature, often accompanied by an account of how subsequent deliberation brought about interesting results, the latter does not seem to be discussed too often – although similar failures may not be so rare. This could be related, among others, to the fact, that while the first kind of events documents the need to take “social aspects” of technology into account (and, eventually, an important role of social learning), telling about failing attempts at carefully orchestrated public dialogue (under the auspices of EU projects) complicates the point – which is what we would deliberately like to do in this case study; and by doing so we hope to join the discussion about the limits of participation and about how to “move beyond mere sloganizing over science and democracy”. We want to show that a misunderstanding about the meaning of the notion of “socio-technical” can be seen behind the described double turn. Socio-technical, at least as far as its STS origin implies, does not mean simply just adding a list of “social issues” to the technical agenda. Not in a way in which the two sets of aspects are kept apart, separated and hierarchically ordered as two different kinds of issues to be solved in different spaces and times. And not in a way which is simply based on gathering experts and lay people together so that they may speak to each other and therefore constitute a kind of “socio-technical” discourse. Instead (and in accordance to the work done within STS), the notion of socio-technical refers to analytical determination to approach and understand social and technical processes together, as a single network, i.e., going hand in hand, inseparably (i.e., Callon 1991; Latour 1991 and elsewhere). Something like this, of course, is hard to translate into policy practices and formalized public involvement – which is valid even more for policy cultures that have remained practically untouched by “the emerging interest in scientific citizenship today and multiple new forms of public participation in science and technology” and in which scientific expertise still very much enjoys the status of politically neutral authority, external to societal life. In a way, we are convinced that the siting process in the Czech Republic has fallen victim to the simplified understanding of what “socio-technical” means for technical democracy in the making.
KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2013): Sociologie, na které ne/záleží. [Sociology made ir/relevant]. Zdenek Konopasek's blog, January 29, 2013. Available at http://zdenek.konopasek.net/index.php?m=16&b=16&i=2757::::
KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2013): Simulakrum jako nadávka? [Simulacra as a bad name?]. Zdenek Konopasek's blog, January 29, 2013. Available at http://zdenek.konopasek.net/index.php?m=16&b=16&i=2728::::
KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2011): Je prý třeba změnit ten postoj a ptát se... [The attitude has to be changed and questions asked, he says]. Zdenek Konopasek's blog, February 26, 2011. Available at http://zdenek.konopasek.net/index.php?m=151&i=1871&b=151::::
KONOPÁSEK, Z. / STÖCKELOVÁ, T. / ZAMYKALOVÁ, L. (2008): Making pure science and pure politics: On the expertise of bypass and the bypass of expertise. Science, Technology & Human Values, 33 (4): 529-553::::
This paper is based on a case study of a long-term public controversy over the construction of a highway bypass (around Plzen, Czech Republic). Two principal variants of the bypass were proposed. One of them began gradually to appear preferable, increasingly attractive for experts, but remaining only on paper. In the meantime, however, the other variant became more realistic, pushed through mainly by local politicians and actually constructed. We show how purification of science from politics (and vice versa) played a key role in the development and ending of the case. Initial expertisation of the case switched to its sharp politicization, when people got frustrated from protraction and indecisive evidence of accumulated expertise. This turned to be fatal for those who consistently staked everything on "pure facts". We conclude by outlining some general consequences of such a development for both democratic decision making and the political relevance of expertise.
KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2008): Expertíza a politika životního prostředí: Případ projektu Natura 2000 [Expertise and the politics of environmentalism: The case of Natura 2000]. CTS Research Reports, CTS-08-02. Praha: CTS. Available at http://www.cts.cuni.cz::::
As sociologists interested in the relationships between expert knowledge and policy making we have studied in detail the processes of implementation of European directives on natural habitats, wild fauna and flora (92/43/EEC) nad on conservation of wild birds (79/409/EEC) in the Czech republic - i.e., the preparation and implemenation of so called Natura 2000. We have focused on diverse practices of expert mapping of the Czech nature, on how national lists of Sites of Community Importance were produced and on how the preparation of these lists was consulted with the public. We also observed how Natura 2000 was shaped by various actors in various ways, so that it could be connected to various plans, projects and trajectories (beyond the plan of Natura 2000 itself). As a result, a number of compromises were incorporated into the project - compromises which were often regarded as problematic, but which, at the same time, made Natura 2000 an object that could be reasonably shared (and supported) by environmentalists, naturalists, policy makers, activists and scientists from various fields. In comparison to, e.g., France, the implementation of Natura 2000 in the Czech Republic passed through smoothly, without major political controversies and as originally intended, i.e., as an exclusively expert driven project. To explain this we offer some insights into different political cultures in the Czech Republic and Western Europe, including specific contexts of the Czech accession process to the EU and its impact on political culture. Our close study of how the Czech nature was mapped and how so called national lists were established reveals that these processes were not completely apolitical and purely expert-driven. We have described a number of particular interests, political calculations, EU-related concerns, organisational contexts etc. intervening into the seemingly purely scientific methods and viewpoints. However, we have also shown that these non-scientific elements often did not work against the scientific quality of the project, but rather reinforced it. For instance, some administrative interventions strengthened the quality of scientific data - as their unintended by-product. Thus, we now better and more realistically understand what it means when we say that a project is purely expert-driven. It means usually something slightly different than to proceed strictly apolitically, but on the other hand it does not mean that expert perspectives are made secondary or even irrelevant.
WATERTON, C. (2007): Od terénu k představám: Klasifikace přírody a vytváření Evropy [From field to fantasy: Classifying nature, constructing Europe]. Biograf, (43-44): 3-32 - translated by Zdeněk Konopásek::::
This paper sets out some observations on the making, and use, of contemporary classifications of nature in the context of a simultaneous and on-going "making" of Europe. It looks in particular at two classifications, one of British vegetation communities and the other of European "biotopes" (a concept that closely relates to natural or semi-natural "habitats") – respectively, the UK National Vegetation Classification (NVC) and the EU CORINE Biotopes Classification. It investigates aspects of the relationship between these two classifications which has come about through their use in a European conservation policy. The CORINE Biotopes classification, in particular, represents a new ordering of nature in a very active sense: it is a good example of a "working archive", and is intimately tied into policy decisions at many levels in Europe. The paper addresses questions as to how contemporary classifications are being made and used, and whether certain tacit understandings and conceptual frameworks "built in" to them reflect back upon the world at a later stage. It argues that these classifications do not always simply reflect the assumptions and understandings built into them: once in the policy domain, they are not as "reversible" as that. Their categories quickly become unstable, mutating and interacting in sometimes unpredictable ways. The two classifications, through their relationship with policy, have a jointly evolving history. The continual renewal of meaning attached to classes within these classifications appears to reflect outwards rather than inwards – in chorus with the broader social and political context, rather than reflecting the condition of their making. In their evolving forms, they illustrate very well the complex nature of the dynamic between unity and diversity, centre and periphery, that lies at the heart of the European Union.
Translated from WATERTON, C. (2002): From field to fantasy: Classifying nature, constructing Europe. Social Studies of Science, 32 (2): 177-204
KONOPÁSEK, Z. / KUSÁ, Z. (2006): Political screenings as trials of strength: Making the communist power/lessness real. Human Studies, 29 (3): 341-362::::
In this paper we discuss the problem of communist power in so called totalitarian regimes. Inspired by strategies of explanation in contemporary science studies and by the ethnomethodological conception of social order, we suggest that the power of communists is not to be taken as an unproblematic source of explanation; rather, we take this power as something that is itself in need of being explained. We study personal narratives on political screenings that took place in Czechoslovakia in 1970 and analyze how the power of communists obtained its strength from ordinary and “unremarkable” interactions between participants. The screenings are interpreted, in the terms of Bruno Latour, as “trials of strength.” We show that it was crucial for all the participants that associations, translations or mobilizations involved in making the regime real, remained partial and multiple, and not exclusive and “total” as is often assumed within dominant discourses on totalitarianism.