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Nick Mahony

Nick Mahony is a researcher at the Open University who explores contemporary publics and emerging forms of democratic culture. He is currently developing a project called Creating Publics that explores the politics of public engagement.

Sue Pell has conducted research on publics, democracy, and knowledge production as a visiting fellow at Goldsmiths College, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada.

Liza Griffin is a lecturer at the Bartlett's Development Planning Unit at UCL. She writes about environmental politics and the governance of 'wicked problems'. Liza is also currently exploring and critiquing the concept of resilient communities.

John Clarke works at the Open University. He is currently involved in research and writing collaborations on governing public services, public making, and citizenship disputes.

Photograph: Andrew Byerley, Toboggan Hill, Tanto park, Stockholm. All rights reserved. See 'Friction zones and emergent publics in Stockholm parklife'

The ‘Creating publics, creating democracies’ workshop offered an opportunity to talk more expansively about how we do things together in society to address the issues that affect our collective lives. As will become clear from the contributions that follow, the details matter. While it has long been assumed there is a place and role for publics to contribute to democratic politics, the major lesson from Creating publics, Creating democracies is that this relationship has to be constantly worked at and constructed anew to meet the demands of particular times and places. Both publics and democracies are unstable concepts rather than settled achievements. We need to be attentive to the particular practices that bring publics into being, make democracies possible and keep both these things alive.

Experiments in democracy and diversity within the Occupy Movement(s)

Horizontal democracy attempts to ensure equality by embracing diversity and conflict. Within these political structures, diversity is not a problem that needs to be resolved: there is no narrative of uniformity, no shared identity (national or otherwise) and no predetermined ideology.

Privatising the common fisheries policy

This vital matter of public concern, with far-reaching ramifications for our relationship to nature should be subject to greater democratic debate.

The creation of publics for Aboriginal rights in Canada

The Canadian publics who take an interest in Aboriginal rights are contested. Not all agree on the federal role in Aboriginal affairs or recognise the historical aspects of colonisation in this crisis.

Media activism in the World Social Forum

'Communicate to mobilise to communicate'. The WSF has been referred to as an emergent global public sphere; however, little systematic attention has been paid to how media and communication are implicated in making it ‘global’ and ‘public’.

Friction zones and emergent publics in Stockholm parklife

Finding ways to deal with friction zones in public spaces such as parks is highly pertinent for both urban democracy and urban sustainability. Some friction is central to genuine democracy, whereas too little or too much is not.

Public against Democracy: the case of the Gujarat Pogrom 2002

The pogrom was not only publicly visible for the local population – as had always been the case with earlier instances of anti-minority violence – but for everybody who could find a screen to watch it on throughout India.

Modesty against the cuts: museums + public + democracy + personal

How people sharing personal experiences through a museum digital storytelling project use ideas of courtesy instead of rights to revise institutional legitimacy; a hopeful kind of modesty which might come in handy in reimagining a public service ethos in the face of the UK’s public sector cuts. 

Assembly publics and the problem of hegemony in consensus decision-making

The point of looking at how consensus is actually established in practice is to see that despite the fundamental difference in logic, consensus and voting share a problem that may be more evident in voting but which - it seems - is also unavoidable in consensus: there is always an element of coercion.

Global trade politics and the spectre of the public

This opening paper of the workshop, Creating publics, Creating democracies (see this week's theme) explores the elusive nature of ‘the public’ in relation to global governance and global civil society; how it is being appropriated, invoked, silenced, and excluded in contemporary politics as well as invested with the alternative imaginaries of a more democratic future  

Creating publics, opening democracies: introducing the week

Calls for democracy echo around us, but what kind of democracy are people calling for? Some focus on the accountability of government to represent the people, while others are demanding new forms of access to democratic participation. Both of these demands hinge on another idea: publicness - that is, how issues are made visible as questions of collective concern, how resources are shared and how collective decisions are made. 

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