Power and politics: all publications

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KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2021): Ať spolu vědci dál nesouhlasí - rozhovor se Štěpánem Kučerou [Let us not ask the scientists to speak in a single voice - an interview with Štěpán Kučera]. Právo, Salon, 28. 1. 2021. Available at Novinky.cz

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In Czech only

KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2017): Lítáme v tom, někteří beznadějně: Odpověď na recenzi Radka Kubaly [We are all in the thick of it: Some of us quite hopelessly]. Zdeněk Konopásek's blog, 22. 12. 2020. Available at http://zdenek.konopasek.net/index.php?m=16&i=4138&b=16

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POKORNÝ, P. & KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2020): We are all in the thick of it: A dialogue about climate change science, politics and activism. In: A. Vondra, ed: Must environmentalism be alarmist? Searching for realistic answers. Brno: Books & Pipes. Pp. 27-69

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Two colleagues, paleoecologist and sociologist, talk about broader contexts of scientific doubting about contemporary climate policies.

POKORNÝ, P. & KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2020): Lítáme v tom - II.: Dialog o klimatu na pomezí vědy, politiky a aktivismu [We are all in the thick of it: A dialogue about climate change - science, politics and activism - II.]. Kontexty, 12 (6): 15-24 (reprinted from A. Vondra, ed: Musí být ekologie alarmistická? [Does ecology have to be alarmist?)

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POKORNÝ, P. & KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2020): Lítáme v tom - I.: Dialog o klimatu na pomezí vědy, politiky a aktivismu [We are all in the thick of it: A dialogue about climate change - science, politics and activism]. Kontexty, 12 (5): 30-39 (reprinted from A. Vondra, ed: Musí být ekologie alarmistická? [Does ecology have to be alarmist?). Available at https://casopiskontexty.cz/litame-v-tom-i/<

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POKORNÝ, P. & KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2020): Lítáme v tom: Dialog o klimatu na pomezí vědy, politiky a aktivismu [We're in: Climate dialogue at the edge of science, politics, and activism]. In: A. Vondra, ed: Musí být ekologie alarmistická? Hledání realistických odpovědí [Does ecology have to be alarmist? Finding realistic answers]. Brno: Books & Pipes. Pp. 67-105

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KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2020): Latour o antropocénu: Složité vztahy mezi intelektuálním a politickým radikalismem [Latour and anthropocene: Complicated relations between intellectual and political radicalism]. Vesmír, 99 (150): 512-514

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Bruno Latour is one of the most quoted authors in contemporary social sciences. In recent years, he started writing about anthropocene or "new climatic regime". His turn toward this topic seems to be associated with a political and theoretical turn. The book Down to Earth can be taken as a prominent example of this turn. I critically discuss this shift in late Latour, including its more general consequences.

KONOPÁSEK, Z. / SONERYD, L. / SVAČINA, K. (2018): Lost in translation: Czech dialogues by Swedish design. Science & Technology Studies, 31 (3): 5-23

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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

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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

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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.

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