i3, une unité mixte de recherche CNRS (UMR 9217)

Institut Interdisciplinaire de l'Innovation

Uses, participation, democratisation of innovation

Coordinators : Michael Baker & Brice Laurent

Recently, profound changes have been observed in the relations between producers and consumers, experts and lay citizens, public and private spheres, and the market, the state and civil society: producers have become aware of the users’ creative potential and they are trying to take advantage of it.

Secondly, the widespread use of ICT triggers the emergence of communities which create new forms of socialisation and shift the boundaries of innovation and markets (open-source communities, open innovation, new cultural practices).

Finally, the intervention of users’-, activists’- or citizens’ collectives in sectors as diverse as health, energy or environment contributes towards the democratisation of scientific and technical choices.

The laboratories of Mines ParisTech (especially the CSI) and of Telecom ParisTech have pioneered the study of this evolution, and have notably popularised the concept of technical democracy. Their approach has two original features: (i) its emphasis on user collectives, the role of ICT in their constitution, and their impact on innovation; and (ii) research is developed with the actors in the fields, and the dialogue with them continues after the end of the research programmes.

The research programme has four main foci:

1. The redefinition of the boundaries between market and non-market.

The different types of collectives – user’, consumers’, activist, citizens’ – tend to intervene simultaneously in spheres usually considered as separate (economic, political, humanitarian, social). Besides, companies themselves endeavour to integrate the expertise of these users’ collectives into their activities. i3 aims to become a reference in respect to this dynamic of hybridisation, emphasizing in particular the feedback loop between market and non-market activities.

2. Politicisation of innovation.

New collectives have often succeeded in becoming legitimate participants in debates in which they were not expected. Hence, the emergence of a “biological citizenship” has been evoked to qualify the participation of patients’ organisations in certain biomedical innovations (such as genetic tests). The case of nanotechnologies, or of distributed digital architectures, show that groups of citizens, activists or consumers interfere in the debates on technologies, far from the traditional top down model of technico-economic evaluation, and that they contribute to bring politics into innovation as it is developing. Besides, owing to ICT, new forms of solidarity are also developing, such as discussion forums which organise online support. The project will make it possible to confront domains which to date have been explored separately by different teams.

3. Democratisation and digital innovations.

Many innovations brought about by ICTS feed the users’ and the citizens’ processes of participation in scientific and technical creation as they allow concerned groups to take shape, new forms of public debate to emerge, and the exchanges between pioneers and users to increase. How can the effects of these ICTS innovations on the democratisation dynamics be measured? We suggest treating this issue on the basis of a series of innovation configurations already studied by various teams participating in i3: the public opening of digital data; the transformation of artistic forms of expression in the digital era; the new place of the consumer in the “digitised” cultural industries; the development of new social links thanks to forms of on-line coordination and action.

4. Interactions, activities and uses.

The users’ behaviours, the forms of organisation showing in their ways of thinking and of interacting concretely in situations, “in the middle” of things, the practical and moral organisation of their activities in the making, simultaneously contribute to original forms of diversion and to micro-effects of power and exclusion, the highlighting of which requires specific methods and approaches. The purpose is here :

  • to study in particular the methods aiming at analysing the activity in the making: audio and video recordings, verbalisations in situations, recordings in a context of mobility, detailed exploration of data;
  • to identify scarcely recognised, tacit and scarcely conceptualised skills, often reflected in physical and linguistic behaviours that are finely adjusted to technological environments and to their properties;
  • to consider how design can appropriate the knowledge produced thus and to use it for the benefit of innovation.

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