Monday, February 27, 2006

Let's play nano

The Dana Centre in London is trying out a fairly new approach to public participation in science tomorrow. The center is inviting members of public to listen to experts and to work through the social, ethical, and scientific implications of nanotechnology. How? By playing cards. Well, by playing DECIDE, to be precise. DECIDE is a card game designed to involve the public in scientific discourse and decision making.

The game involves up to 8 participants per group. It is centered around the idea of group deliberation and of helping individuals with little or no initial information about nanotech to make sense of the new technology and come to an informed group decision. Players download instructions and other materials, including different sets of playing cards: story cards with episodic reports about nano, info cards with factual information, and challenge cards that pose various ethical or moral dilemmas. As part of small discussion groups, citizens identify larger themes, policy positions, and recommendations that they can upload to the DECIDE web site and compare to those of other groups all over Europe.

The ultimate goal? To provide “a structure that helps people feel safe discussing a subject they may know nothing about.” And while DECIDE's potential as a tool for large-scale citizen involvement may be minimal, the idea certainly has some intuitive appeal. Using a card game that defines clear rules for all players and forces them to examine the issues from all angles, may help counter the detrimental group dynamics and informational gaps that often characterize traditional deliberative meetings with members of the general public.

(For the complete nano card set, click here.)


Christine Peterson from Foresight Institute looked at DECIDE more closely and has an excellent commentary on her blog.