Predicting the Future: How Ordinary People Make Sense of Emerging Nanotechnologies

author: Susanna Hornig Priest, University of South Carolina
.administrator: Michelle Sagan Gonçalves, University of Massachusetts Amherst
published: Jan. 14, 2009,   recorded: May 2007,   views: 3564

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This presentation will briefly review quantitative and qualitative data that suggest the general tenor of the current public opinion climate for nanotechnologies, and then identify the key factors that can be expected to affect how people cope with information about any new technology. These include their own underlying values, their levels of trust in key social actors, and the connections they identify with technologies previously encountered, as well as information from media accounts. Public conceptions of potential risks are often broader than those commonly identified in formal risk assessments, encompassing "social risks" such as disruption, displacement, privacy, distribution, regulation, and so on, as well as risks to human health and environmental integrity. While media are only one influence among many, they are regularly accused of exaggerating some risks while ignoring others. Progress toward developing a theory that might predict when and explain why this occurs will be reviewed.

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