Fair public participation based on local knowledge: relevant outsiders versus choreographed outsiders

Of course, the above should be considered singular cases for the purpose of examining the roles of relevant outsiders rather than as a generalization regarding tlie success of wind power generation. In the first two cases, a relevant outsider created new paths leading to wind power generation amidst the long-standing tendency toward nuclear power stations, and in the last case, relevant outsiders who had had little to do with the market unexpectedly created the opportunity to introduce wind power generation around the seismic center of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. What is common among these three independent cases is the role played by relevant outsiders in changing a fixed trajectory with adherence to erroneous precedents to a new path, a change that was triggered by influences outside the market.33 This change in a fixed trajectory, supported by adherence to erroneous precedents, can be viewed as a change by relevant outsiders within the more general context of public participation in technology selection.

It is important, however, in a more general context of public participation, to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant outsiders; for example, a relevant outsider in one situation could become a choreographed outsider in another, merely by agreeing to provide their “stamp of approval” to the given path of the existing technology. Such a choreographed outsider would continue to play a role in legitimizing particular agents and/or sectors as needed to the detriment of public interest. For example, in the process of technology development and diffusion, a choreographed outsider could, under the disguise of reflecting public opinion, reiterate that the influence of certain stakeholders is legitimate. In order to avoid the mechanism leading to structural disaster in the process of social decision-making on public issues within the science-technology-society interface, and to maintain a proper quality of the process, identifying criteria for distinguishing relevant outsiders from choreographed outsiders is crucial for people in the citizen sector.

The demarcation between relevant and choreographed outsiders varies depending on the situation; however, there is one situation in which that demarcation is critical. Since the mechanism generating structural disaster in the science-technology-society interface is rarely recognized in a straightforward manner, making a decision without being aware of this demarcation could undermine public interest through complex interactions between heterogeneous agents having particular interests, including compromise among stakeholders. Such complex interactions tend to be kept away from public attention, so it is therefore vital to highlight the generating mechanism of structural disaster and publicly secure the visibility of such a generating mechanism in the eyes of ordinary people within the citizen sector who could be the first to suffer from the structural disaster.

If the generating mechanism becomes visible, can structural disaster be prevented? My answer is “no,” because there could be another mechanism that enables people to tolerate a process that would lead to structural disaster. As suggested in Chapter 3, a significant role causing and perpetuating structural disaster can be played by “good people” who make positive contributions to organizations and/or sectors, who occasionally deviate from the realization of public interest. In this context, it becomes necessary to reconsider in more detail the mechanism of following the steps of an erroneous precedent under a locally agreeable equilibrium, both from the perspective of those who are or become good people and from the perspective of those who stand to benefit.

Needless to say, it is virtually impossible to break down the generating mechanism into the individual behaviors of each agent and observe them directly; however, we can return to historical cases in order to analyze how the aforementioned mechanism generating structural disaster looks from the perspective of and roles held by those who became good people and from those who stood to gain something. Such an analysis could provide a valuable clue to understanding, sociologically, how the mechanism triggering, generating, maintaining, and institutionalizing structural disaster actually works within the context of particular social action.

The initial process of wind turbine development and diffusion is presented here as one such historical case; in particular, to reveal why it is important to differentiate the roles played by relevant outsiders as public participants in social decision-making. For example, in a case of path-dependent stagnation of wind power generation in Japan, it is meaningful to create a channel that enables relevant outsiders to participate in social decision-making processes to prevent over-influence of the network and belief effects and lock-in and to continuously monitor the current research occurring on technological development, however modest it may be, in parallel with technology import.34 Prior studies on the structure of the development trajectories of technologies reveal that technological progress tends to be a revisionist success story using hindsight. In many cases, however, there are various alternatives, both potential and explicit, at each stage of technological development.35

Accordingly, unless continuous efforts are made to keep up-to-date on the technological development of wind turbines (for example, control technolog)' related to the optimization of operation, transmission, and network systems), it will be virtually impossible to know what alternatives are available and/ or the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative. Without this kind of knowledge, it would be impossible to make a selection from among the different alternatives available and eliminate negative effects due to the sociological path-dependency that accompanies network effects and belief effects. For this reason, it is essential to make alternative technological trajectories transparent. But how?

To make alternative technology trajectories transparent in the public sphere with the aim of facilitating the well-balanced selection of an appropriate technolog)' in the science-technology-society interface, it is essential to ensure that all actors concerned are able, when necessary, to participate in proper stages of the social decision-making process. In Japan, however, public participation in such processes has been focused only on systems for selling the electricity generated by wind turbines, or green electricity schemes. In contrast, changing the fixed development trajectory of technology necessitates public participation in earlier stages, such as technology selection.

Public participation in technolog)' selection does not necessarily mean that citizens will be directly involved in developing technologies (though there are

Fair Public Participation in the Selection of Technology Note

Figure 6.1 Fair Public Participation in the Selection of Technology Note: T„T2,T3......T„ indicate different types of technology.

some exceptional cases in which the public does get involved, such as with the development of tidelands), but from the perspective of structural disaster this participation helps to ensure access to channels through which relevant outsiders are able to select the type of technology to be introduced from among a number of alternative types, based on the accumulated local knowledge of the affected communities.36 Relevant outsiders are, as defined above, expected to be instrumental in avoiding network and belief effects that could lead to a state of lock-in in the sociological path-dependent process generating structural disaster. Their participation could also provide one possible means for reducing uncertainty caused by dual underdetermination because they are expected to broaden the range of policy options by introducing alternatives in technology selection based on local knowledge. This idea of public participation by relevant outsiders in the initial technology selection process can be conceptualized as follows (see Figure 6.1).37

Considering that Japan’s percentage of renewable energy, including wind power, remains at only 4.4 percent of its total primary energy supply as of 2014 (Agency for Natural Resources and Energy 2016), it is illogical to expect that public participation by relevant outsiders in technology selection will alter such an overall trend in the near term. The significance of this concept is quite separate from such immediate effects. Since the development and diffusion of wind turbine technolog)r requires neither a huge budget nor large-scale revision of the existing system of electricity production and supply, and since fairly complicated problems of wind turbine design and deployment could be resolved by utilizing local knowledge and labor for repair and maintenance, public participation by relevant outsiders in wind turbine selection can be seen as a test case for their participation in singling out an appropriate type of technolog)' and its deployment in local contexts. The significance of the concept of relevant outsiders relates to feasible ways of changing a fixed trajectory of technological development and diffusion, thereby eliminating the potentiality of structural disaster residing in a state of lock-in.

 
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