Nanotechnology seems to escape boundaries and definitions. The “Rush to Nanoscale” spreads throughout different sites and arenas, involving a multiplicity of actors, meanings, and spaces in which they emerge. The ‘uncertainty of nanotechnology’ appears to be both a condition and a consequence of this situation. This volume adds to the collective effort of charting the multiple and heterogeneous dimensions that characterise nanotechnology, by analysing the numerous modalities through which different stakeholders and actors provide definitions, attribute meaning and sense to nano-enabled innovations. The chapters of the book attempt to highlight how nanotechnologies, their discourse, and their actual and potential implications cannot be isolated in laboratories, factories, markets, and separate discussion arenas. Also, the volume examines how it is apparently not possible to bind and/or confine the definition of nanotechnology by referring exclusively to present-day research and applications, as well as to geographical, cultural, and even disciplinary boundaries. Considered together, this collection of essays suggests that the ‘societal experiment’ of nanotechnology has to be explored with a vocabulary that is not just scientific and technical, in order to cross the frontiers between multiple domains, actors, identities, translations, and negotiation processes that occur in the nanotechnology field.
This paper sets out some challenges for Ireland's contribution to nanotechnology public engagement in the context of current STS and science communication theoretical-practice approaches. I report on a pilot set of public engagement activities and accompanying ‘multi-sited ethnographic’ and frame analysis methodologies. I reflect on how the theoretical context of these methods and findings present a challenge for nanoscience communicators in the first instance, but also for the social scientists and academics that are themselves contributing to the discourse of nanotechnology and, intentionally or not, communicating nanotechnology to diverse publics. I identify six discourse sites of nanotechnology which have the potential for public engagement.
Harald Throne-Holst, Sally Randles, Christian Greiffenhagen, Pål Strandbakken, Eivind Stø
31 - 52
This chapter reports on a research project which addresses one key question and a number of sub-questions. The key question is, what are the salient dimensions of the commercialisation and governance of nano-enabled products, covering regulation, risks, responsibilities, consumer rights, and representations to the consumer? The sub-question, and the particular focus of this paper is, how are nano-enabled products destined for consumer markets labelled and marketed? Within this more specifically, how do producers perceive and strategically target consumers, and communicate with them (or not) about the nano-component of their products? Then, does the way that consumers are conceived of and understood by different actors along the value chain change in terms of how the product is marketed? Finally, what are the ethical, governance and regulatory implications of the answers to these questions? The chapter builds on an ongoing collaborative project between SIFO (Norway's National Institute for Consumer Research) and the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research at Manchester Business School, UK. The work is a comparison of ethical aspects in the marketing of nano-products in Norway and the UK. This chapter provides preliminary findings and some reflections based on empirical material; an analysis of web-based and other communications, interviews along the value chain, i.e. with producers, importers , retailers and other ‘intermediaries’; and eight group discussions across the two countries focussing on cosmetics and textiles.
Firms and other stakeholders in emerging nanotechnologies frame their strategies in terms of implicit, collective roadmaps which coordinate their activities. In this way, they succeed in reducing uncertainties and focusing on moving targets. This chapter presents evidence from a case study on nanocoating firms in Germany and reflects on the implicit and explicit forms of strategy and coordination.
This paper links the discussion on nanotechnology to the discussion on fictionality. following the hypothesis that it could be useful to insight into this complex issue. Both nanotechnology and (non)fiction are regarded as terms marking a general challenge for thinking about the future. Documents that talk about visions, scenarios, imagination or Science Fiction with respect to nanotechnology argue more or less explicitly about fictionality. By investigating relations between nanotechnology and fiction, relying upon arguments from Science and Technology Studies and the philosophy of science, fictionality appears as a technical term bounded to terminologies that structure discussions and statements on nanotechnology. The main part of the paper presents different concepts of the relation between nanotechnology and fictions, starting from a close reading of documents from STS and the philosophy of science. Additional considerations focus on fictionality with respect to the debate on Genetically Modified Organisms. By investigating documents in an interdisciplinary semantic framework and by confronting their different propositions and conclusions, this paper tries to understand the relationship between fiction, scenarios, computer simulation and nanotechnology.
All life is based on superbly contrived interdependent natural nano-artifacts. What then is the intention of human attempts to create nano-artifacts of increasing complexity? What may be their purpose? Why is so much effort being made globally to create nano-science and nano-technology to be the basis of nano-artifacts? How much progress is being made toward vague and undeclared goals? When may some of these goals be reached? These are some of the issues for foresight (anticipation) to explore through appreciation of the situation that now characterises the nano-world of human endeavour. Later an example will be used to illustrate the interdependencies within these situations over an extended time horizon notionally up to 2050. However, first it is necessary to indicate briefly how the present nano-world situation has been reached, a matter of foresight's close relation to hindsight. Subsequently, the concepts of situations, systemic foresight and panarchy, and their interrelatedness are outlined. Also illustrated is how they work in harness with the six foresight themes Social, Technology, Economics, Ecology, Politics and Values (acronym STEEPV) and appreciation. There are two examples. One dwells on some current anticipations of the future for nano-science, nano-technology and nano-artifacts. The other illustrates how situations, systemic foresight and panarchy illuminate four interdependent themes that are important to the future of the nano-field. Throughout, what is colloquially called ‘nanotechnology’ is considered as three interdependent parts nano-science, nano-technology and nano-artifacts. Two of these, nano-science and nano-technology, support the creation of nano-artifacts. The paper also indicates briefly the relevance of industrial ecology.
In the Global North, confusion, hype and disagreement plague nanotechnology debates. In the meantime, the debate about the Global South's engagement with nanotechnology has forged ahead, assuming common understandings about what nanotechnology is and what it is not, as well as the general irrelevance of definitional debates. This despite evidence that nanotechnology is being presented in a conflicting manner in the literature, through mixed terminology and imagery, and that little has been documented about Southern understandings. Given the importance of understandings in the genetically-modified foods debate, the way nanotechnology is understood holds serious repercussions for the framing of its ethical, legal and social implications. This chapter reports on the perspectives of Thai and Australian key informants, from a broad range of fields. It seeks to explore and clarify how nanotechnology might be defined, perceived and framed in terms of the South. The results suggest that nanotechnology may be conceptualized in similar ways, focussing on near-term nanotechnology that is defined by a common set of characteristics. Yet, when it comes to the way these conceptualisations translate into applications, there may be large differences in nanotechnology's perceived scope, sophistication and complexity. This holds interesting ramifications for global nanotechnology discourse, particularly in terms of the assumed costs and infrastructure required to conduct nanotechnology research and development and the more general role the South will play in the global nanotechnology picture.
This paper argues that the typical analysis of the questions of risks posed by emerging nanotechnologies (in particular by nanoparticles) provided by much of the current debate is in a general and consequentialist framework, which appears reductive and problematic. On the one hand, this is due to the typical epistemological features of these technologies and, on the other hand, to the metaphysical research program that serves as their background. The centrality of risks exercises a sort of control of the debate by imposing the relevant questions and excluding other important topics. Furthermore, informed by the promise of great transformative potential and by the identification of knowing with making, nanotechnologies organize their program around a rich and multi-faceted idea of control of matter and this conceptualization is important also for the understanding of risks. In this paper it will be argued that much of the current ethical discourse around these technologies, which takes the question of risk as the central question, reduces ethics to a narrow form of risk assessment and, thus, a different approach is required. Alternative approaches that emerge in the present literature will then be discussed, i.e. ethics as a more sophisticated form of prudence. Finally, the analysis of the metaphysical ideas surrounding nanotechnologies will be highlighted as a fruitful way for deepening the understanding of the ethical relevance of nanotechnologies for a renewed understanding of risks, capable of taking into account their socially constructed and situated character. For a proper analysis of the ethical and social challenges emerging from nanotechnologies, an inquiry into their socio-economic context also appears to be fundamental since technologies are not ethically neutral but are rather constructed in a social and historically situated environment.
Risks and hazards of most new nanotechnologies cannot be completely predicted in the laboratory. Therefore the introduction of such nanotechnologies into society amounts to a societal experiment. I propose four conditions under which such societal experiments with nanotechnology are acceptable (absence of alternative testing methods, controllability, proportionality of hazards to benefits and informed consent). In addition, four conditions for the responsible set-up of such experiments are proposed (monitoring, feedback, conscious scaling-up, containment of hazards).
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