The article studies the characteristics of participatory governance on the level of micro-structures. The analysis of micro-structures allows for better understanding the strengths and weaknesses of participatory discourse. A detailed analysis of communicative structures in partici atory decision-making procedures provides insight into the process of social positioning. The rather strict legal framework in such procedures promotes both inclusive and exclusive dynamics in the process of communication. Participation per se does not guarantee an advance in democratic culture nor is it as such suited to cope with the "democratic deficit" often mentioned in scholarly and political debate. Against this empirical background the article explores new ways for democratic engagement, particularly in the governance of science and technology. In every case of participatory governance the precise function of participation should be clarified with respect to the particular procedure and with respect to the constitutional and legal framework. The competent authority should inform the public about the legal conditions underlying the case, for example in a local information forum. The implementation of "alternative" institutional forms for citizen participation in administrative decision-making should be prepared and accompanied by a precise scientific analysis of the function and structure of participation in the particular model.