Participation is a concept and practice that governs many aspects of new media and new publics. There are a wide range of attempts to create more of it, and a surprising lack of theorization. This paper attempts to present a “grammar” of participation by looking at three cases where participation has been central in the contemporary moment of new, social media and the Internet, as well as in the past, stretching back to the 1930s: citizen participation in public administration, workplace participation, and participatory international development. Across these three cases I demonstrate that the grammar of participation shifts from a language of normative enthusiasm to one of critiques of co-optation and bureaucratization and back again. I suggest that this perpetually aspirational logic results in the problem of “too much democracy in all the wrong places.”
Christopher M. Kelty is professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has appointments in the Institute for Society and Genetics, the department of Information Studies and the Department of Anthropology. Research interests center on social theory and technology, the cultural significance of information technology; the relationship of participation, technology and the public sphere.
He is the author of the book Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Duke University Press, 2008), as well as numerous articles on open source and free software, including its impact on education, nanotechnology, the life sciences; participation as a political concept, open access in the academy, piracy, the history of software, and many other inadvisably diverse topics.
Campus Unteres Schloss