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 amount 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.
This research project is conducted at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.