Nanotechnologies: Perception of Technological Risk & Constraints on Benefit 1/15 12noon McCune

Event Date: 

Thursday, January 15, 2009 - 12:00pm

Event Location: 

  • HSSB 6020

Barbara Herr Harthorn

Nanotechnologies: Perception of Technological Risk & Constraints on Benefit among Comparative US/UK Publics

This paper presents qualitative findings on public risk perception from a comparative cross-national US-UK study of public deliberation on benefits and risks of nanotechnology energy and health applications. The paper situates comparative nanotech risk perception that emerges in deliberative workshops within broader science and technology risk perception patterns in the US and UK, and then moves to explore the technological, social, and regulatory constraints US and UK publics perceive in relation to the likelihood of their realizing full benefits from new nanotechnologies. On-going low awareness of new nanotechnologies among US and UK publics poses unique problems for framing, contextualizing, and deliberating about technoscientific futures and modes of public participation. Yet, deliberative venues in the emergent risk perception context provide an important context for qualitative research on perceived risks and benefits.

Barbara Herr Harthorn, Principal Investigator and Director of the NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center: Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS) at University of California at Santa Barbara, is also Associate Professor of Feminist Studies, Affiliated Faculty in the Departments of Anthropology and Sociology, and Co-Director of the Center for Global Studies in the Institute for Social, Behavioral and Economic Research, all at UCSB. She is also on the Research Executive Committee and an Interdisciplinary Research Group leader in the newly founded NSF/EPA UC Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology based at UCLA and UCSB. Her research has examined the social production of health inequality, and in particular looks at the intersections of gender, ethnicity/race, and social location in health and health risk perception. Her work in the CNS examines technological risk perception among diverse US and comparative UK populations. She leads an interdisciplinary, international research group that uses mixed qualitative and quantitative methods to study multiple party expert and public risk perception regarding emerging technologies.