A twenty-first century Citizens' POLIS: introducing a democratic experiment in electronic citizen participation in science and technology decision-making

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Related to ongoing debates concerning the future of “deliberative democracy” and “public sociology,” this article introduces a new approach to citizen participation in science and technology decision-making. The Citizens’ POLIS (Participatory On-Line Interactive System) is a multi-method, multi-stage, semi-structured, electronic public participation process. This pragmatic experiment is influenced by the philosophy of John Dewey and James Bohman, and sees the citizen as the primary democratic inquirer and the social scientist as the key organizer and creator of the “institutional space for deliberation.” This article discusses the role of the social scientist in organizing an electronic participation experiment, one which seeks to reach a compromise between democratic legitimacy and political effectiveness. A recently completed pilot study on “Mobile Phones, Risk and Health” is used to illustrate the approach. In conclusion, the need for further empirical experimentation with this, and other processes for electronic citizen participation, is asserted.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)528-544
Number of pages17
JournalPublic Understanding of Science
Issue number5
Early online date26 Jun 2009
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2010


  • deliberative democracy, public sociology, public participation


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