In 1983 Michel Foucault gave a series of lectures at the University of Berkeley in which he addressed the old Greek idea of Parresia for critical thinking.
The Greeks made a distinction between episteme and parresia. Epistème refers to knowledge production in which objective knowledge is produced by logical reasoning and by providing evidence. Modern science is largely based on this tradition. Parresia refers to the act of speaking the truth from a specific personal experience and a recognised ethical position. Because a person reveals truth to him or herself, he or she reveals truth to others.

Parresia is not easily accepted as a method for producing knowledge in the scientific realm. Yet in contrast to this, we see that in the professional realm a personal speaking of the truth that derives its authority from experience and a recognised ethical position is widely accepted and appreciated. In this study I also want to use experiences from my professional life before I re–entered academia. Therefore, some of the data is gathered in a parresiastic manner. However, to be able to gather truth through acts of parresia, certain requirements have to be met. Not any truth can be accepted as an act of parresia.

According to the Greeks, to be able to speak the truth a person needs to have the right attitude. “In Parrhesia, the speaker uses his freedom and chooses frankness instead of persuasion, truth instead of falsehood or silence, the risk of death instead of life and security, criticism instead of flattery, and moral duty instead of self–interest and moral apathy” (Foucault 1983, 8).

Among the various Greek schools of philosophy a diversity of interpretations of parresia existed, but they all agreed that parresia could only be the privilege of certain male citizens, whose integrity was recognized and who themselves exercised certain ascetic practices. When translating this idea of establishing an act of parresia for the current era, certain old questions about the truth have to be answered: ‘Who is capable of speaking the truth, about what subject, with what consequences and in which power constellation?’

I argue that I am capable of speaking truth about the cases I am going to analyse because I was deeply involved in both the conceptualisation and the realisation of the networked events. My experiences are determined by the specific position I held in these networked events. Therefore, I asked close collaborators, who can be seen as key informants, to comment on the case study reports. I am well aware of my partial perspective. Within this partial perspective I am capable of speaking the truth, I argue, but to do so I also need to possess a certain attitude.

Foucault formulates the use of certain methodologies that such an attitude requires in acts of parresia. Seclusion, self diagnosis and self investigation are necessary for a process of revealing truth to oneself. The process of revealing truth to oneself involves formulating, taking distance, evaluating, analysing and re–formulating. Foucault was inspired by Plutarch on parresia as a methodology for analysis: “These exercises are part of what we could call an “aesthetics of the self”. For one does not have to take up a position or role towards oneself as that of a judge pronouncing a verdict. One can comport oneself towards oneself in the role of a technician, of a craftsman, of an artist, who — from time to time — stops working, examines what he is doing, reminds himself of the rules of his art, and compares these rules with what he has achieved thus far.” (Foucault 1983). This metaphor of the artist who stops working, steps back, gains a distant perspective, and examines what he is actually doing with the principles of his art can be found in Plutarch’s essay, “On the control of anger”. The person who ‘makes use of’ parresia, has to speak freely about what he thinks: openly, frankly and boldly. And this person has to be as precise and complete as possible.

Formulating experiences through acts of parresia has been part of the data gathering of the research I present here. I have found the methodologies of analysis that are necessary for such experiences to qualify as acts of parresia in the methodological ‘avant–garde’ of the domain of Science and Technology Studies. The text laboratory and the techno–biography are both methodologies that facilitate an analysis of formulated experiences. The text laboratory induces insights and new links by the act of formulating and writing itself. The techno–biography facilitates a confrontation between multiple sources and the formulated personal experience. The techno–biography also facilitates the confrontation between the former self and the current self in the person who is conducting the analysis. Because the formulated experiences have been analysed by using techno–biography and the text laboratory as the methods of analysis, the formulated experiences can be considered acts of parresia. The fact that the people with whom I collaborated at the time have commented upon the case studies in the final stage, increases the validity of the research I present here.