controversy

Can media monitoring be a proxy for public opinion about technoscientific controversies? The case of the Italian public debate on nuclear power

Federico Neresini, Andrea Lorenzet

Is it possible to infer information about public opinion by looking at how the media discuss controversial technoscientific public issues? We conduct content analysis on media coverage of nuclear power in Italy in the years 1992–2012 and compare it with longitudinal public opinion surveys. By treating a large amount of textual data and applying an innovative methodology based on indicators of the presence of ‘risky terms’, that is, keywords referring to the issue of risk and danger, very high correlation has been found between media discourse on risk and opposition within public opinion. The analysis is conducted testing as a preliminary step Mazur’s hypothesis on quantity of coverage and opposition towards controversial technoscience. Then, risk content measures are used in order to gain stronger correlations between media and public attitudes towards nuclear power.

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How did the fracking controversy emerge in the period 2010-2012?

Allan Mazur

In 2010-2012, the controversy over fracking grew rapidly, first in the United States, and then internationally. An important step was the anti-fracking documentary film Gasland. With help from celebrity sources, the film was produced and won a prize at the Sundance Film Festival by early 2010 and had an Oscar nomination by early 2011, in the meantime popularizing potent images of hazard including tainted aquifers and ignitable water running from kitchen faucets. During this period, major US news organizations paid little attention to the issue. The offshore Deepwater Horizon disaster of April 2010 spurred The New York Times to prolific reporting on potential risks of the new onshore technique for extracting shale gas. With flagship news coverage, the controversy had by 2012 gained wide media attention that evoked public concern and opposition, spreading from the United States to other nations.

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Different ways of problematising biotechnology – and what it means for technology governance

Alexander Bogner, Helge Torgersen

To understand controversies over technologies better, we propose the concept of ‘problematisation’. Drawing on Foucault’s idea of problematisation and on the concept of frames in media research, we identify characteristic forms of problematising biotechnology in pertaining controversies, typically emphasising ethical, risk or economic aspects. They provide a common basis for disputes and allow participants to argue effectively. The different forms are important for how controversies are negotiated, which experts get involved, what role public engagement plays and how political decisions are legitimised – in short, for technology governance. We develop a heuristic for analysing the link between forms of problematisation and different options for technology governance. Applied to synthetic biology, we discuss different problematisations of this technology and the implications for governance.

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Reconstructing the public in old and new governance: A Korean case of nuclear energy policy

Hyomin Kim

Korean nuclear energy regulatory policies started to change from earlier exclusively technocratic policies into open dialogues after several anti-nuclear protests in the 1990s. However, technocratic policies still coexist with the new regulatory orientation towards openness, participation and institutional accountability. This paper analyzes Korean nuclear regulatory policies since approximately 2005 as a blend of old and new governance. The aim of the paper is not to decide whether new nuclear governance is deliberative or not by completely reviewing Korean nuclear policies after the 2000s. Instead, it provides an empirical account of how seemingly more participatory processes in decision-making entail new problems while they work with and reproduce social assumptions of different groups of the public.

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