University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Nanoscience Centre Seminar Series > Nanotechnology and 'upstream' public engagement: Articulating the controversy potential of a 'technology-in-the-making'?

Nanotechnology and 'upstream' public engagement: Articulating the controversy potential of a 'technology-in-the-making'?

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In this paper we examine empirical research aimed at helping clarify the likely social and ethical dimensions of emerging nanotechnologies. The purpose of the research was to develop a deeper insight into the sorts of issues likely to shape public attitudes and concerns. This was not an easy task. How do you research a topic about which most people have little or no opinion? How do you anticipate future public opinion? The results, based on 10 in-depth focus group discussions with assorted publics, our research presents a picture of emergent public opinion which differs to some extent from the existing literature on public attitudes towards nanotechnology. It highlights a latent ambivalence towards nanotechnologies, and suggests that there may be public unease about its potential implications. What is perhaps most interesting is that this ambivalence did not diminish through greater knowledge and awareness. Instead, through exposure to the multiple ways in which the debate was being characterised, and through debate and deliberation, our participants moved towards a more sceptical view as to the ability of government and industry to represent the public interest.

This talk is part of the Nanoscience Centre Seminar Series series.

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