Public Engagement and Cultures of Expertise

Aim of the Scoping Study:

Questionnaire imageThe overall aim of this scoping study is twofold. Through discrete but connected projects, we will investigate what public engagement is, what it could be and what it should be. The second aim of the scoping study is to map the channels of public engagement though formal and informal, digital and non-digital routes. The underpinning rationale for the project is that digital technologies have changed, or have the potential to change, existing practices, policies and relations. In order to address this issue, we ask about general and specific practices of engagement, identifying through this process, those that are and are not digital. This gives us a sense of the transformative nature of digital technologies from a practical and on-the-ground perspective. We combine this with insights into what could be done through digital technologies in order to provoke certain encounters and conversations that elucidate key qualities and values associated with public engagement. Our hope is that in the rationale for not/using certain technologies, modes, and practices, qualities and values of public engagement are articulated, which can then be retrospectively juxtaposed with the practices of public engagement detailed below.

1. What is public engagement?

This strand investigates the in/formal elements of digital and non-digital, formal and informal channels of public engagement and consists of an empirically grounded and wider analysis that tackles the principles and methods of public engagement from an institutional perspective. The second element of this question relates to measurements and understandings of engagement. How do institutions and audiences define engagement, and how do they measure its success? How is engagement realised through (digital and non-digital) process and practices?

 2. What are the practices of public engagement?

The second strand of the scoping study aims to understand the processes and practices of engagement from the point of the ‘user’, audience or general public. We start from the premise that digital transformations have been going on for some time, and that we all operate within a digital framework as residents. Therefore identifying formal and informal practices that currently exist may tell us much more about the challenges and future directions for public engagement.  We are interested in spaces of community engagement – the formal and informal spaces – and the different articulations and constructions of spaces through practice.

3. What could public engagement be?

This strand draws on the rapidly expanding area of social media, which not only allows new (and existing) channels for public engagement; it also provide a rich source of information that has the potential to redraw channels of engagement in ways that extend and speak to those identified through the two strands above. We aim to foster reflection on what is possible through digital data methods and what the implications of these methods might be for public sector organizations and their existing and future practices.


Activities and Findings

Scoping Report: Read the Public Engagement & Cultures of Expertise Scoping Report for more information about this study and the key questions arising from it.

Discourses of Public Engagement Workshop. This workshop took place on the 20th September 2012 and brought together representative from a number of Research Projects with an interest in public engagement. A summary of the event is available here.

Click on the links below to view the presentations given at the workshop:

MeCCSA Conference 2013 – Spaces and Palces of Culture: Helen Thornham and Katy Parry presented their paper ‘No Such Thing as Community’ at the conference in January.