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Workshop with Christopher M. Kelty

Probably no one in the world has dealt with the topic of participation as intensively in the recent past as Christopher Kelty. He teaches at the University of California in Los Angeles but paid a visit to the Leibniz Science Campus - Postdigital Participation. The Campus's deputy speaker Felicitas Macgilchrist moderated the events of a day that provided campus members with countless thoughts, approaches and theorems. It was a day of reflection, of pausing and considering the ScienceCampus. Doctoral students and members of the steering committee held high level discussions and inspired each other.

Who actually participates, who is there, who is committed to volunteering, in the community for sustainability, the common good or social peace. And why is the phenomenon of participation so difficult to grasp?

Finding answers to these questions is not easy, and Christopher Kelty admits in conversation that he, too, can hardly separate the two in his book, which features numerous case studies and thus not only provides theoretical thinking but also experiences of practical challenges. It is difficult to draw sharp lines between participation and democracy, or between participation and activism or actionism. In his opinion, it is particularly difficult when it comes to the question of inner participation; of involvement. Who can be won over to and invloved in participation processes ? And in the end, is it only experts who can be inspired? Finally, one must always consider the relative volume of those involved in participation processes. Minorities may often be louder than majorities. Kelty's special focus, however, is on the question of value. For him, participation is not good or bad per se. For him, it is important to also see the 'dark side' and to conduct a differentiated debate.

In summary: participation is a multi-layered and valuable construct that needs the discourse between the disciplines. It lives from the negotiation of the concept and its practical and social manifestations. All this is grist to the mills of the interdisciplinary Leibniz Science Campus under the leadership of the Leibniz Institute for Educational Media. Its director Eckhardt Fuchs is also building bridges in the same way as Kelty, and showing the potential that lies in structured interdisciplinary research within the Leibniz Association. The findings from the visit: the campus operates at an internationally compatible level and, with its numerous, coordinated projects, fosters an academic understanding and a justification of participatory processes in a world in which the digital has become a matter of course.

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