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Honolulu, Hawaii, United States, 2006/11/26 - An interesting approach to dealing with the lack of consensus in the views on nanotechnology identifies eight main nodes of nanotechnology discourse and describes these "islands" of discussion, examines their interactions and degrees of isolation.
Nano-this and nano-that. Nanotechnology moves into the public consciousness. This “nanotrend” has assumed “mega” proportions: Patent offices around the world are swamped with nanotechnology-related applications; investment advisors compile nanotechnology stock indices and predict a coming boom in nanotechnology stocks with estimates floating around of a trillion-dollar industry within 10 years; pundits promise a new world with radically different medical procedures, manufacturing technologies and solutions to environmental problems; nano conferences and trade shows are thriving all over the world; scientific journals are awash in articles dealing with nanoscience discoveries and nanotechnology breakthroughs. Nanotechnology has been plagued by a lot of hype, but cynicism and criticism have not been far behind. The media can run amok when news about potential health problems with nanoproducts surface (as recently happened with a product recall for a bathroom cleaner in Germany). These discussions around nanotechnology epitomize the contemporary processes of making the future present. An interesting approach to dealing with the lack of consensus in the views on nanotechnology identifies eight main nodes of nanotechnology discourse and describes these "islands" of discussion, examines their interactions and degrees of isolation from each other.
In a recent paper in the journal Futures ("A map of the nanoworld: Sizing up the science, politics, and business of the infinitesimal") attempts to identify how scientists, policymakers, entrepreneurs, educators, and environmentalists have drawn boundaries on issues relating to nanotechnology; describes concisely the perspectives from which these boundaries are drawn; and explores how boundaries on nanotechnology are marked and negotiated through contestations of power among various nodes of nanotechnology discourse
The process of demarcating boundaries starts with the very definition of nanotechnology. Initial conceptions of nanotechnology were far more radical than currently realized and even considered realizable by many technoscientists. Molecular manufacturing, self-replicating miniature robots, etc., were conceived of as constituting what their proponents call true nanotechnology. But there is a large gap between the basic nanostructured materials being manufactured today and the potential of productive nanosystems
Debashish Munshi, Associate Professor in Management Communication at the Waikato Management School in Hamilton, New Zealand, and lead author of the paper, explains to Nanowerk that the authors' analysis of the literature on nanotechnology reveals the following eight nodes of societal discussion on nanotechnology:
(1) technoscientists, especially those either working on or supervising some nanotechnological application who, almost invariably, tend to glorify nanotechnology;
(2) leaders of business and industry who want to cash in on the projected benefits by developing a market for nanotechnology-driven products;
(3) official or quasi-official bodies that generate a significant amount of literature;
(4) social science and humanities researchers who tend to focus on the social, economic, political, legal, religious, philosophical, and ethical implications of nanotechnology;
(5) fiction writers with imaginative scenarios, both utopian and dystopian;
(6) political activists, particularly those with an environmental worldview, who tend to extend to nanotechnology the issues long raised by them with regard to biotechnology;
(7) journalists and popular science writers who report on current events, perspectives, and funding regimes relating to the field; and
(8) John Q. and Jane D. Public, who are yet to significantly grapple with or discuss nanotechnology in any depth.
Read the full article on the Nanowerk website.
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