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Envisioning Ethical Nanotechnology: The Rhetorical Role of Visions in Postponing Societal and Ethical Implications Research


By csep - Posted on 09 May 2012

TitleEnvisioning Ethical Nanotechnology: The Rhetorical Role of Visions in Postponing Societal and Ethical Implications Research
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsHanson, Valerie L.
JournalScience as Culture
Volume20
Issue1
Pagination1 - 36
Date Published03/2011
ISSN Number1470-1189
KeywordsSocietal Implications
Abstract

Visions of the future are often used to promote new technologies, including nanotechnology. They are also used in discussions of the social and ethical issues (SEI) of nanotechnology, yet their roles in these discussions are unclear. These roles, however, are important because stakeholders and government funding agencies rely on the discourses in which visions appear to understand what SEI are and how they should be addressed. Rhetorical analysis of three common future visions found in arguments supporting US funding of nanotechnology SEI research in a 2003 US House of Representatives hearing shows how anticipations are used to help constitute discussions about SEI research and programs. The effects of the deployment of these visions are to emphasize postponement of SEI research, frame a vague role for SEI dependent on technological development, and contribute to a vision of a vaguely defined, yet ethical future nanotechnology that helps halt concerns about nanotechnology while also directing attention away from present concerns and possible action. This last vision affects discussions about what SEI of nanotechnology should be by functioning as a frame for articulating SEI as postponed to the future and so indicating that technological development should continue without engaging SEI concerns. These findings also resonate with recent articulations of SEI appearing in 2008 US government documents and contradict other statements about funding nanotechnology's SEI. Further, these findings suggest a need for more clearly addressing the presence and roles of visions in SEI discourses to better articulate possibilities and limits of SEI research and programs.

DOI10.1080/09505430903505782
Short TitleScience as Culture