Wednesday, February 15, 2006

New European frames in media coverage of nano

"The Asbestos of Tomorrow" vs. "Nano Science"

Swissinfo.org just reported on two new frames emerging in German-speaking coverage of nanotech. Frames are ways of presenting information in order to evoke certain interpretive schemas among audiences. A good example is the "estate tax" (or "death tax," if reframed negatively). The two terms obviously evoke very different interpretive schema among readers.

The two nano frames that are discussed in the swissinfo piece: "Der Asbest von morgen" [The Asbestos of Tomorrow] and "Nanowissenschaft" [Nanoscience] (as opposed to nanotechnology).

The first frame--the asbestos of tomorrow--will probably be used mostly by opponents to evoke fears and concerns similar to the ones about asbestos. What are the dangers, for instance, if tiny, invisible nanoparticles are inhaled or ingested by people?

The second frame--nanoscience--is an excellent way of relabeling the concept in order to emphasize the scientific aspects rather than the engineering or technology aspects, i.e., the fact that nanotechnology allows for modifications that do not occur in nature. This will be especially relevant when public discussion turns to nano applications in health and nutrition.

For a recent piece on the relationship between media frames and attitudes toward nanotech, see Scheufele, D. A., & Lewenstein, B. V. (2005). The public and nanotechnology: How citizens make sense of emerging technologies. Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 7(6), 659-667.


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