Material participation

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Economy and Society special issue on “Materials and Devices of the Public,” edited by Noortje Marres & Javier Lezaun (h/t STS Oxford):

This introduction provides an overview of material- or device-centred approaches to the study of public participation, and articulates the theoretical contributions of the four papers that make up this special section. Set against the background of post-Foucauldian perspectives on the material dimensions of citizenship and engagement – perspectives that treat matter as a tacit, constituting force in the organization of collectives and are predominantly concerned with the fabrication of political subjects – we outline an approach that considers material engagement as a distinct mode of performing the public. The question, then, is how objects, devices, settings and materials acquire explicit political capacities, and how they serve to enact material participation as a specific public form. We discuss the connections between social studies of material participation and political theory, and define the contours of an empiricist approach to material publics, one that takes as its central cue that the values and criteria particular to these publics emerge as part of the process of their organization. Finally, we discuss four themes that connect the papers in this special section, namely their focus on (1) mundane technologies, (2) experimental devices and settings for material participation, (3) the dynamic of effort and comfort, and (4) the modes of containment and proliferation that characterize material publics.

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