Wickedness, reflexivity, and dialogue: Toward a multivalent bioenergy

Wynne Wright, Weston M. Eaton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Bioenergy development is intensifying and is often accompanied by contentious social issues. This article provides a reflexive account of scholarship intended to advance citizen engagement around bioenergy through the practice of deliberative dialogue. Using a case from our work in Michigan, USA, we conceptualize bioenergy as a wicked problem - one that is ill-structured, socially complex, tentative, and eschews a definitive way forward that avoids clear outcomes. Problems are made tame, however, when complexity, diversity, and indeterminancy are obscured. Simultaneously holding in tension the diversity of meanings and values held by actors can reduce the likelihood of taming wicked problems, which is central to a democratic science. Thus, we argue for a multivalent approach to bioenergy. Deliberative dialogue is one technique that can engage citizens and achieve multivalency, yet, it, like any method, requires rigorous reflexivity. This reflexive exercise demonstrates how the normative biases of researchers can obscure or stifle multivalency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-232
Number of pages14
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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