Experimentation as a modality of collective action

As a mode of action stemming from scientific practice, experimentation is spreading today in a variety of situations: industrial innovation, the universe of regulation, urban policies, crisis management, etc. In all these areas, it contributes to the renewal of the formats of organized action, beyond the oppositions between planning and improvisation, centralized action and local initiative, administrative regime and market-based coordination.

CSI’s research analyzes the emergence of experimental modes of action through the prism of pragmatism and Science and Technology Studies. Its focus is on the emergence of the publics targeted by these experimentations, the forms of participation on which they are based, as well as on the metrologies they build, in particular for evaluation purposes. Because they are an opportunity to break away from the frameworks that usually constrain action, experimentations produce new agencements which need to be analyzed.

CSI research focuses on several areas in which the “experimentation” form unfolds. The field of urban experimentation, which is the focus of a program developed for several years in partnership with Renault and the Institut de la mobilité durable [Sustainable Mobility Institute], questions the changes in the modes of governance at work in a large number of cities throughout the world. This program also explores the changes in the experimental form itself within this movement, from the material conditions for the production of results, to the nature of the knowledge thus generated, to the diversity of the actors involved.

Another area concerns is the design and evaluation of public policies. Two recent researches illustrate how experimentation is approached here. The first one relates to randomized trials in anti-poverty policies. It questions how these trials produce a certain description of the causes of poverty and circumscribe specific forms of treatment. The second one concentrates on “regulatory sandbox” approaches in innovation policies. It examines the circulation of the experimental device (“sandbox”) across different counties and fields of activity, the debates it raises, and how it reconfigures public action by transforming the regulator into a guarantor of innovation.


Scaling up Co-creation. Pathways and challenges for socially robust innovation in Europe (Scalings)

City Experiment with urban mobility practices (CitEx)

IMD expérimentation

Observatory for Responsible Innovation

PhD theses:

Nassima Abdhelgafour, Les dispositifs expérimentaux dans les politiques de lutte contre la pauvreté / Experimental setups in poverty alleviation policies

Marie Alauzen, Plis et replis de l’État plateforme. Enquête sur la modernisation des services publics en France / Unfolding the Platform State. An inquiry into the modernisation of french public services

Jean Goizauskas, Bâtir en terre crue et en pierre sèche : une innovation de rupture ? Expérimentations sociotechniques autour de pratiques constructives en voie de stabilisation / Building in raw earth and dry stone: a breakthrough innovation? Sociotechnical experiments around construction practices in the process of stabilization

Emilie Perault, Les expérimentations citoyennes dans l’habitat partagé. Vers un renouveau des modes d’habiter ? / Citizen experiments in shared housing. Towards a renewal of ways of dwelling?

Félix Talvard, Les expérimentations urbaines des eco-cities et des smart cities dans la mobilité, l’énergie et les infrastructures / Eco-city and smart-city experiments in mobility, energy and infrastructure

Carole-Anne Tisserand, Comment l’organisation d’instances de participation sur le territoire « du futur » performe-t-elle son public ? La construction d’un smart territoire et territoire du « futur », Île-de-France / How does the organization of participation bodies in the territory « of the future ” perform its public? The construction of a smart territory and of a territory « of the future », Île-de-France


Mathieu BaudrinScalings Project.


Brice Laurent, David Pontille, Félix Talvard, 2019, La politique des expérimentations urbaines. Innovation technologique et transformations des villes à Singapour et San Francisco

Nassima Abdhelgafour, 2017, Randomized Controlled Experiments to End Poverty ? A Sociotechnical analysis

Brice Laurent, 2017, Democratic experiments: Problematizing Nanotechnology and Democracy in Europe and the United States