Nanotechnology perceptions. Literature review on media coverage, public opinion and NGO perspectives

(Nanowerk News) Nanotechnology development is in its early phase and there is a growing debate on its potential benefits and risks. This report reviews literature on public opinion and NGO perspectives concerning nanotechnology. It starts with a discussion on the position of public in the context of nanotechnology development. Different constructions of public (citizens, consumers, human beings, populations, patients) contain different understandings of the possibilities for action, responsibilities and needs for information.
The report discusses the role of news media in nanotechnology communication. One central issue is message framing which refers to the context in which an issue is presented. Framing of nanotechnology in newspapers has changed in time. In the late 1990s scientific framing was common but currently more varied frames are used, e.g. societal implications of nanotechnology.
The report reveals that general knowledge of nanotechnology among lay people is currently very low. However, various studies suggest that lay people are able to consider complicated technological and scientific developments from wide perspectives, if they are provided with proper possibilities for that.
The analysis indicated that NGOs view nanotechnology not only from the perspective of health and safety, but also from the perspective of its societal impli-cations. The NGOs point out the importance of public transparency and societal relevance of nanotechnology research and development.
The lack of knowledge of nanotechnology among lay people creates challenges for communication. Making information available is important. However, various studies have indicated that feelings and values have an important role to play in the formation of nanotechnology perceptions. This is why an interactive and dialogical approach may be more effective than one-way information in communicating a message about nanotechnology to the public.

Publication title: Nanotechnology perceptions - Literature review on media coverage, public opinion and NGO perspectives

Author: Anna Leinonen & Sirkku Kivisaari

Publication type: Book (Paperback)

ISBN number: 978-951-38-7667-8

Source: Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT)