Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Richard Marback


This dissertation develops an approach to institutional critique that re-works Porter, Sullivan, Blythe, Grabill, and Miles’ foundational configuration. This project argues that John Dewey’s concept of democratic communication articulated in his debate with Walter Lippmann provides a useful heuristic for developing democratic communicative practices that allow citizens and experts to communicate with one another about technical issues such as water quality and safety. Through an analysis of Michigan’s emergency manager law, the relationship between citizens and experts that exposed the crisis, and the Flint Water Advisory Task Force’s Final Report, this dissertation establishes that citizens must participate in technical decision-making and makes pragmatic suggestions to increase citizens’ meaningful participation. This project concludes with theoretical and pedagogical implications of a participatory institutional critique.