(De)futuring democracy: Labs, playgrounds, and ateliers as democratic innovations

Hans Asenbaum (lead author), Frederic Hanusch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
59 Downloads (Pure)


New laboratory formats worldwide, including policy labs, innovation labs, and living labs, invite political engagement of multiple stakeholders. Although this format shares the basic characteristics with democratic innovations such as citizens’ assemblies, it has yet to be acknowledged by this field of study. This article fills this gap. It finds that labs are torn between the logic of democratic agency and technocratic control, and argues that this power nexus is indicative of a likely future of democracy. Beyond this ambiguous character, labs point to playfulness and creativity as two aspects that established democratic innovations rarely incorporate. Hence, we extrapolate these two aspects to propose alternative formats: democratic playgrounds and democratic ateliers. Instead of the output-orientation of democratic innovations for expected change, playgrounds and ateliers follow the logic of democratic serendipity, an exploratory, open-ended mode of participatory engagement, which promises to open democracy for unexpected change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102836
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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