Narrative, Nanotechnology and the Accomplishment of Public Responses: a Response to Thorstensen

Author(s)
Matthew Kearnes, Phil Macnaghten, Sarah R. Davies
Abstract

In this paper, we respond to a critique by Erik Thorstensen of the ‘Deepening Ethical Engagement and Participation in Emerging Nanotechnologies’ (DEEPEN) project concerning its ‘realist’ treatment of narrative, its restricted analytical framework and resources, its apparent confusion in focus and its unjustified contextualisation and overextension of its findings. We show that these criticisms are based on fairly serious misunderstandings of the DEEPEN project, its interdisciplinary approachand its conceptual context. Having responded to Thorstensen’s criticisms, we take the opportunity to clarify and develop our approach to narrative. We articulate the need for novel, theoretically robust approaches to the formation of public attitudes which transcend the limitations of both survey-based approaches—which remain wedded to methodological individualism and which presume that individuals hold distinct and relatively stable attitudes and preferences—and interactionist approaches to public talk, which focus too strongly on individuals-in-interaction as reasoning agents and which ignore the constitutive role of culture and discourse in the formation of public opinion. We suggest that our use of narrative can help to better understand the process through which public attitudes to emerging technology develop out of interactive an engagement with wider cultural arguments and accounts of science and technology. We finish by pointing to parallel developments in social thought—from Charles Taylor’s treatment of social imaginaries to recent developments in post-Bourdieuian cultural sociology—as related projects in understanding the cultural resources and grammars that provide the conceptual infrastructure for modern social life.

Organisation(s)
Department of Science and Technology Studies
Journal
NanoEthics
Volume
8
Pages
241-250
No. of pages
10
ISSN
1871-4757
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11569-014-0209-7
Publication date
2014
Peer reviewed
Yes
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
509017 Social studies of science
Keywords
Portal url
https://ucris.univie.ac.at/portal/en/publications/narrative-nanotechnology-and-the-accomplishment-of-public-responses-a-response-to-thorstensen(9476ab9b-d532-4d4e-a391-7cdc87cd9d17).html