Technology of Imagination. A Card-based Public Engagement Method for Debating Emerging Technologies

Ulrike Felt, Simone Schumann, Claudia Schwarz, Michael Strassnig

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


This article introduces and reflects on a group discussion method for public engagement exercises and for qualitative research into citizens' practices of developing and negotiating positions on emerging technologies. The method consists of card sets and a specific choreography in order to facilitate the development of citizens' imaginations on nanotechnology and society in the Austrian context. Drawing on concepts from Science and Technology Studies, we discuss the method's design as well as how citizens in four discussion groups appropriate the setting. The cards' materiality, their content and the discussion choreography invites participants to move between individual and collective positioning work, to creatively engage with the elements available and imagine how an emerging technology - in our case nanotechnology - could develop in future. For the analyst, it allows reconstructing participants' ordering, assessment and projection practices. The article concludes with reflections on the potential and limits of the method and how it could be employed as a tool for qualitative research more broadly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-251
Number of pages19
JournalQualitative Research
Issue number2
Early online date4 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 509017 Social studies of science


  • Austria
  • card-based discussion method
  • deliberative democracy
  • emerging technologies
  • future
  • governance
  • group discussions
  • lay citizens
  • nanotechnology
  • public engagement

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