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Participation and Interaction in Foresight

Participation and Interaction in Foresight

Dialogue, Dissemination and Visions

Edited by Kristian Borch, Sandra Dingli and Michael Søgaard Jørgensen

This illuminating book combines theory and practice to analyse the experiences and impacts of foresight activities in various European countries. It includes case studies with a focus on different societal issues including national development, science and technology, and sustainable development.

Chapter 5: Dialogue in foresight: consensus, conflict and negotiation

Kristian Borch and Fredesvinda Mérida

Subjects: innovation and technology, innovation policy, politics and public policy, public policy


In the attempt to examine systematically the longer-term future of science, technology, the economy and society, foresight seeks knowledge and tries to identify those tendencies that lead towards aggregation and consensus and those that generate conflict. Experience with public debate indicates that the more controversial the issue is, the greater the necessity for maintaining multi-perspective dialogue between the ‘social actors’. Such debate is often highly normative, reflecting the degree of aversion to risk and uncertainty of the actors involved. However, differences in professional language and culture can make such dialogue difficult. Gibbons (1999) writes: ‘Since expertise now has to bring together knowledge that is itself distributed, contextualized and heterogeneous, it cannot arise at one specific site, or out of the views of one scientific discipline or group of highly respected researchers’. Rather it must emerge from bringing together the many different ‘knowledge dimensions’ involved. Its authority depends on the way in which such a collective group is linked, often in a self-organized way. Breakdowns in social authority arise when links are inadequately established, as it for example has been the case in European debates over genetically modified organisms (Borch et al., 2003).

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