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.


“Othering” agricultural biotechnology: Slovenian media representation of agricultural biotechnology

Jožica Zajc, Karmen Erjavec

While studies on media representations of agricultural biotechnology mostly analyse media texts, this work is intended to fill a research gap with an analysis of journalistic interpretations of media representations. The purpose of this project was to determine how news media represent agricultural biotechnology and how journalists interpret their own representations. A content and critical discourse analysis of news texts published in the Slovenian media over two years and in-depth interviews with their authors were conducted. News texts results suggest that most of the news posts were “othering” biotechnology and biotechnologists: biotechnology as a science and individual scientists are represented as “they,” who are socially irresponsible, ignorant, arrogant, and “our” enemies who produce unnatural processes and work for biotechnology companies, whose greed is destroying people, animals, and the environment. Most journalists consider these representations to be objective because they have published the biotechnologists’ opinions, despite their own negative attitudes towards biotechnology.