Materials and Devices of the Public: An Introduction

Marres, Noortje and Lezaun, Javier. 2011. Materials and Devices of the Public: An Introduction. Economy and Society, 40(4), pp. 489-509. ISSN 0308-5147 [Article]

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This introduction provides an overview of material- or device-centered approaches to the study of public participation, and articulates the theoretical contributions of the four articles that make up this special section. Set against the background of post-Foucaldian perspectives on the material dimensions of citizenship and engagement - perspectives that treat matter as a tacit, constituting force in the organization of collectives and are predominantly concerned with the fabrication of political subjects - we outline an approach that considers material engagement as a distinct mode of performing the public. The question, then, is how objects, devices, settings and materials acquire explicit political capacities, and how they serve to enact material participation as a specific public form. We discuss the connections between social studies of material participation and political theory, and define the contours of an empiricist approach to material publics, one that takes as its central cue that the values and criteria particular to these publics emerge as part of the process of their organization. Finally, we discuss four themes that connect the articles in this special section, namely their focus on 1) mundane technologies, 2) experimental devices and settings for material participation; 3) the dynamic of effort and comfort, and 4) the modes of containment and proliferation that characterize material publics.

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October 2011Published

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Date Deposited:

31 Oct 2011 14:18

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29 Apr 2020 15:31

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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