Two things are central to today?s societies: first, these societies are built on technologies, and second, knowledge is crucial in organizing these societies. However, if we look at what kind of knowledge is typically used in governing modern societies, we see a dominance of experts: people with the right diplomas get most opportunities to contribute their knowledge. When it comes to issues around complex technologies, this phenomenon becomes stronger, because the requirements for knowledge seem to become even more specific. And when we talk about technologies that are critical to the functioning of society, such as infrastructures and security systems, it gets even more explicit: not only should people have the right expertise, they also need to be trustworthy.
On the one hand, it is of course for good reasons that we want experts to take care of complex issues, and that we want especially trustworthy experts to manage technologies that are critical. But on the other hand, this means that many other sorts of knowledge are excluded. The average citizen might have knowledge about their use of energy that is very relevant for managing the critical energy grid, but that cannot be included because the citizen has no access to decision-making processes. Yet, how can we enable those people to contribute their knowledge?
This is what we call the problem of epistemic justice or knowledge justice: how can we make sure that different sorts of knowledge all get a fair share of possibilities to contribute to important decisions? Over the past years, a lot of attention has been paid to how citizens can contribute to important decisions, and both the dominance of experts and the value of their knowledge have been recognized. This research project will continue this line and investigate how people can not only contribute their knowledge, but also be supported to explain why and how their knowledge is valuable, even if it does not look like expert knowledge.
The project studies governance and management of risk in information societies from the perspective of 'epistemic justice'. Epistemic justice is the idea that not all sorts of knowledge are given the same possibilities to speak, and effort is needed to distribute this speaking power more fairly. Especially formal expertise, coming from academic and otherwise certified knowledge producers, has a natural tendency to dominate debates, and governance and management processes. Notwithstanding the value of such expertise, this may entail that other valuable sorts of knowledge fail to get included in management and governance processes. The project will deliver insights that help improve innovation and governance in information societies by mobilizing a broader range of knowledges than is currently the case.
The project wil study multiple cases of critical infrastructures and how they are positioned vis-à-vis the general public. Cases will be selected where specific knowledges face poor inclusion, including but not limited to gendered knowledges. The cases will be studied through three lenses: the critical infrastructures themselves and how their securitization is constructed; critical perspectives mobilized by parties who see themselves not included in the governance and management of those securitization practices; and a critical perspective where avenues for better inclusion are explored.
The research project will deploy a range of social-scientific and humanities empirical methods, so as to study the interactions in governance and management of innovation. Also, the project will contain action research, primarily specific forms of knowledge brokerage, to connect the outcomes to potential audiences. These audiences are thought to be wide-ranging: politicians and policy makers, innovators and innovation managers, the general public, and community organizations and NGOs.