Sustainable Living Experiments or a ‘Coming Out’ for the Politics of Things

  • Noortje Marres


To foreground the role of ‘empirical technologies’ like everyday devices of carbon accounting in participation raises broader questions about the place of experiments in democracy. Philosophers, historians and sociologists have long reflected on the privileged status that experimental science is accorded as a form of inquiry in liberal democracies (Stengers, 2000; Barry, 2001; Turner, 2003; Ezrahi, 1990). The relative prominence of technologies of measurement, observation and empirical display in the enactment of environmental engagement could be understood as a further expression of this. Indeed, it could be interpreted as indicative of, and contributing to, an ongoing ‘scienticisation’ of democracy: the capture of public culture by scientific formats of publicity. However, a body of recent work that has become known as the ‘sociology of demonstrations’ has sought to complicate this type of diagnosis. This literature draws on the social studies of science and technology to develop a broader analysis of the role of public experiments, tests, trials and empirical presentations in social and political life (Barry, 1998; Girard and Stark, 2007; Rosenthal, 2005; Latour, 2005b; Muniesa and Callon, 2007; see also Adkins and Lury, 2009). Analysing demonstrations in a variety of settings, from political activism to architecture and software development, these works propose that not just the presentational styles of experimental science, but a range of different genres of empirical display are deployed in public demonstrations.1


Liberal Democracy Public Engagement Sustainable Living Living Experiment Normative Capacity 
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Copyright information

© Noortje Marres 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Noortje Marres
    • 1
  1. 1.Goldsmiths, University of LondonUK

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