— Michael Guggenheim

Tag "Imagined Lay People"

The Long History of Prototypes.
Contribution to Prototyping Prototyping, Limn, Issue 0, edited by Christopher M. Kelty, pre-publication to conference: Prototyping Cultures, organized by Adolfo Corsín Jiménez and Adolfo Estalella. Madrid 2010.

extended journal article version to come later.

A video of my talk is here, in case you want to see me.


the argument:

“Prototyping” has always existed and probably, for most of human history, has been more important than it’s opposite, orderly science and planning. But the differentiation of the functional system of science and art and the strong differentiation between experts and lay people in high modernity has obscured existing forms of prototyping. Only since the late 1960ies, as part of the “revolt of the audience” as Jürgen Gerhards has called it (Gerhards 2001), has it become possible to acknowledge prototyping as part of western society.

Such a claim rests on a notion of prototyping as laid out in the description of the conference: prototyping is not simply understood as the development of “first forms” or “first strikes” as beta-versions of products as in industrial design, but as a more general mode of doing culture: a mode that is tentative, based on bricolage, user involvement and ongoing change and improvements of products and practices, as “open innovation”, rather than on an expert in a closed lab who turns out a finished product to be used by a unknowing user.

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In: Priska Gisler, et al. dhetemplate.com (Hg.): Imaginierte Laien. Die Macht der
Vorstellung in wissenschaftlichen Expertisen. Weilerswist: Western union online Velbrück,

Contribution to this book, based on phD research.

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Imaginierte Laien. Die Macht der Vorstellung in wissenschaftlichen Expertisen.

Weilerswist: Velbrück. (Co-authored together with Gisler, Priska,
Alessandro Maranta, Helga Nowotny and Christian Pohl)

A book that established the concept of “imagined laypeople” and sketches it out with some case studies from environmental expertise and GMO legislation.

buy it here

A short english version can be found in this article



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In: Acta Sociologica Vol. 46 (2003), H. 2, pp. 150-165,

(Together with Priska Gisler, Alessandro Maranta und Christian Pohl)

Short version of this book in German


This article examines the role of lay persons in the thinking and working of experts in different fields at the borders of academic knowledge production. The status of lay persons has been studied in the Public Understanding of Science (PUS) research, which has shed light on the implicit assumptions of the deficit model that experts usually apply to lay persons. This deficit model has been consistently criticized for its inadequacy. The purpose of this article is not to contribute to this critique but to focus on the conceptions of the expertise of lay persons as a necessary prerequisite of science-based recommendations in the context of application. We call such conceptions `imagined lay persons’ (ILP). We argue that such conceptions fulfil a functional purpose in the interaction between different fields in knowledge societies, and that such conceptions should not be checked against some alleged essential features of lay persons. Based on four different case studies of science centres, environmental science and consultations, as well as state regulations of genetically modified organisms, the authors examine the image of these imagined lay persons and what role they play in expertise.



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