Generating environmental knowledge and inquiry through workshop processes

Peter J. Taylor, University of Massachusetts Boston


Since the late-1980s many scholars in Science and Technology Studies have accounted for the validity of scientific knowledge or the effectiveness of technologies by discussing the heterogeneous resources mobilized by diverse agents spanning different realms of social action. In the environmental arena such "heterogeneous construction" is, in effect, self-consciously organized through the frequent use of workshops and other "organized multi-person collaborative processes" (OMPCPs). This paper describes my own process of making sense of the workshop form for generating environmental knowledge and further inquiry. This process was catalyzed by participating during the spring and summer of 2000 in four innovative, interdisciplinary workshops. By reflecting on these workshops and drawing on other experience I identified six angles for thinking about why a workshop (or OMPCP) might be needed to address the complexity of environmental issues. The angles relate both to establishing knowledge ("product" in the paper title) and to developing the capacity for further inquiry ("process") through participation in OMPCPs ("process").