Tag Archives: publics

Renovating democracy: combining conventions with festivals to assemble the public

[Re-post of piece originally published by openDemocracy by Nick Mahony and Derek Tatton, Adminstrator of the Raymond Williams Foundation]

Democratic and political changes could be fomented from a well-designed constitutional convention, but this would be more likely if such a convention was twinned with an exciting national programme of rolling public events and festivals oriented around the pluralisation of democracy and the democratization of everyday life.

We already live in a world where people are actively experimenting with many new ways of democratizing all different spheres of our everyday life, from workplaces, to technological platforms, the fields of arts and culture, the media, energy systems, food production and distribution, the economy and money, design, innovation and more. There are already many experts and organisations involved, as well as public groups and established campaigners.

These projects face many obstacles and difficulties, but the task is now to engage the wider public in these developments, as well as involve them in discussions about how more established democratic processes need to be reformed. To do this something rather more unconventional than a constitutional convention will be required.

It is for this reason that the Raymond Williams Foundation has teamed up with Gladstone’s Library and the Democratic Society to support the development of a new festival of democracy called DemFest, which will take place 13-14 May 2016, in the beautiful surroundings of Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, near Chester – (programme, speaker, ticketing and contact details all available on the DemFest.org website).

The aim of this new event is to encourage differently situated participants, with a shared interest in democratic change, to convene in a single site for a short period of intensive and convivial interaction, exchange and cooperation. We think the festival may provide an event template that could be of real value in the complicated social context in which we all now live.

DemFest is just one small and rather experimental event that’s taking place against this broader backdrop of emerging possibilities for democratization. This event is all about getting together to reflect on our current democracy and to consider new ways of renovating democracy that could help address some of the larger-scale and increasingly urgent problems that we now collectively face.

Raymond Williams is famous for calling for a ‘long revolution’ that has the aim of bringing about a more educated and participatory democracy. The contemporary starting point for such a revolution needs to be people’s everyday concerns and aspirations for a fairer, more open and egalitarian life and greater engagement with some of the myriad of initiatives and contemporary experiments that are already being worked on to democratise various spheres of our everyday life.

Festivals aren’t always progressive and the festival format doesn’t have a simple history, but at their best festivals can offer spaces where people can feel exhilarated by new ideas and experiences, with this opening out possibilities for imaginative and mutually supportive forms of collective action.

We welcome you to join us at DemFest and we will be pleased to receive comments and suggestions, anytime, on ideas you have for future DemFest events.

DemFest, the new festival of democracy, will take place 13-14 May at Gladstone’s Library, in Hawarden, near Chester. For programme details and information about the line-up of speakers go to: demfest.org

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How marketing practices shape public action

Clive Barnett and I have a new paper published in Policy and Politics, on their ‘fast track’ page, entitled Marketing practices and the reconfiguration of public action. The paper draws on a project for the NCCPE and ESRC that Clive and I worked on a while back when were both at the OU, on the use of segmentation methods in the public sector, charities, and campaign sectors.

This paper seeks to open up some interpretative space for exploring what is going on when marketing practices get used in non-commercial sectors, without presuming in advance that what is going on is necessarily always something called ‘neoliberalism’.

Here is the abstract of the Policy and Politics piece:

“Market segmentation methodologies are increasingly used in public policy, arts and culture management and third sector campaigning. Rather than presume that this is an index of creeping neoliberalisation, we track the shared and contested understandings of the public benefits of using segmentation methods. Segmentation methods are used to generate stable images of individual and group attitudes and motivations, and these images are used to inform strategies that seek to either change these dispositions or to mobilise them in new directions. Different segments of the population are identified as bearing particular responsibilities for public action on different issues.”

If you can’t access the version published in Policy and Politics, there’s a pre-print version available as a free download here.

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Futures of public participation? Meet The Practitioners

Mounting awareness of the limitations of top-down forms of public organisation is generating an explosion of interest in public participation.

To contribute to the on-going debate about these developments, we have teamed up with openDemocracy.net to publish a series of interviews that examine developments in contemporary public participation from the perspective of those who are responsible for organising them – we call them The Practitioners.

We’ve written a short introduction to our guest feature. Today (Monday) openDemocracy also publish our first interview, which is with 38 degrees. The other six interviews (with UK Uncut, Complaints Choirs, UDecide and others) will be published between tomorrow and Friday.

For those working to creatively anticipate and realise futures that are both more public and more participative, we hope you will find these interviews as interesting as we do.

These interviews are published as part of a project called Participation Now, which is a new Open University web platform that hosts debate and an accessible and expanding collection of over 120 of the most creative examples of contemporary publicparticipation and engagement initiatives.

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Mediating Energy Publics workshop, UEA London, April 3rd 2014

Happy to announce the details of the third seminar in the Publics then, now and beyond network‘s travelling seminar series ‘Making Energy Publics’, which will take place on April 3rd at UEA London. This seminar is organised by Helen Pallet and Jason Chilvers, of UEA.

Speakers: Andrew Barry (UCL); Linda Soneryd (University of Gothenburg); Alison Mohr (University of Nottingham); Tom Hargreaves and Noel Longhurst (UEA); Nick Mahony and HIlde Stephansen (Open University).

Here’s the blub:

What publics think, know, say and do has become a central concern of energy research and policy. Existing approaches tend to imagine an external public existing in a natural state waiting to be revealed, engaged, or mobilised by science and democracy. Yet, energy publics are actively brought into being by the ways one seeks to know and move them. This seminar – a collaboration between the Open University Publics then, now and beyond network and the EPSRC Realising Transition Pathways Project – explores the possible academic and practical value of radically rethinking energy publics as being emergent and coproduced in relation to social, technical and political orders. In doing so it has three main areas of concern and possible contribution.

1. To consider competing theoretical explanations for the coproduction, making and mediation of energy publics – including the relative roles of technologies, objects, issues, procedures, settings, imaginaries, and forms of human action in shaping (and being shaped by) instances and practices of public formation.

2. To open up a more ‘system-wide’ and symmetrical exploration of the diverse sites and forms of making energy publics – ranging from public deliberations on energy policy through to performing smart technologies in the home, and from grassroots energy innovations through to forms of public protest – than mainstream social science theories and approaches which attend to specific parts of the energy ‘system’ and/or particular publics (like rational actors, consumers, deliberative citizens, civil society, users, everyday practitioners).

3. To consider how relations between science, governance and society would need to be reconfigured in order to better account for the inherent uncertainties, diversities, materialities, and competing visions of emergent energy publics.

You can register for this event here.

Have questions about Making Energy Publics? Contact Jason Chilvers and Helen Pallett

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