Consumers, Nanotechnology and Responsibilities Operationalizing the Risk Society.

Harald Throne-Holst

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research external, graduation UT

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Abstract

Risks are high on the agenda in our society, to the extent that we might refer to the society as a risk society. Our society experiences emerging technologies, like nanotechnology. Different actors respond to this in a variety of ways. Among these are the consumers, an important, but neglected category of actors in this context. Arguably it is in our role as consumers we first encountered nanotechnology, in the form of nano-enabled products at the consumers market. What consumers think and do, reacting to the mixed messages about benefits and risks of nanotechnology, contributes to how the risk society (with regard to nanotechnology) is developed, and in that sense becomes operationalized. The theme of this thesis, is not just the responses of consumers (and how others perceive these) to the introduction of nanotechnology, but also a case study of how the risk society can be operationalized. One important mode of operationalization is articulations. An important contribution of this dissertation is the emphasis on the ‘work of definition’ that has to be conducted by consumers when being confronted with newly emerging (nano) risks. The commitments of consumers with nanotechnology are analysed and theoretically elaborated with the help of the theory of the Risk Society by Ulrich Beck. In the thesis, focus group studies are one situation where ‘work of definition’ can be observed and evolving outcomes can be traced. Further, the empirical data include stakeholder interviews, as well as content analysis of international advertisements for nano-enabled consumer products. A general finding is that consumers, in focus group interactions , do not limit themselves to risk, but more often discuss responsibilities. A recurrent storyline in the discussions of the focus groups is: “New is worrisome”; “But old is worrisome too” and finally “Yes, new is like old – but with possible added benefits”. Stakeholder interviews show optimism to nanotechnology and technology in general. Enactors experiment with marketing of nano-enabled products. A challenge for civil society organisations is to adopt knowledge-based policies and decision-making on the complex and dynamic developments of nanotechnology. The findings and analysis have relevance even for other emerging technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Rip, Arie , Supervisor
Award date18 Apr 2012
Place of PublicationEnschede
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2012

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Nanotechnology
Responsibility
Risk society
Focus groups
Emerging technologies
Stakeholders
Consumer products
Civil society organizations
Content analysis
Articulation
Empirical data
Marketing
Decision making
Experiment
Operationalization
Consumer markets
Agenda
Knowledge-based
Optimism
Policy making

Cite this

Throne-Holst, H. (2012). Consumers, Nanotechnology and Responsibilities Operationalizing the Risk Society. Enschede: Universiteit Twente.
Throne-Holst, Harald. / Consumers, Nanotechnology and Responsibilities Operationalizing the Risk Society.. Enschede : Universiteit Twente, 2012. 314 p.
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Throne-Holst, H 2012, 'Consumers, Nanotechnology and Responsibilities Operationalizing the Risk Society.', University of Twente, Enschede.

Consumers, Nanotechnology and Responsibilities Operationalizing the Risk Society. / Throne-Holst, Harald.

Enschede : Universiteit Twente, 2012. 314 p.

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research external, graduation UT

TY - THES

T1 - Consumers, Nanotechnology and Responsibilities Operationalizing the Risk Society.

AU - Throne-Holst, Harald

PY - 2012/4/18

Y1 - 2012/4/18

N2 - Risks are high on the agenda in our society, to the extent that we might refer to the society as a risk society. Our society experiences emerging technologies, like nanotechnology. Different actors respond to this in a variety of ways. Among these are the consumers, an important, but neglected category of actors in this context. Arguably it is in our role as consumers we first encountered nanotechnology, in the form of nano-enabled products at the consumers market. What consumers think and do, reacting to the mixed messages about benefits and risks of nanotechnology, contributes to how the risk society (with regard to nanotechnology) is developed, and in that sense becomes operationalized. The theme of this thesis, is not just the responses of consumers (and how others perceive these) to the introduction of nanotechnology, but also a case study of how the risk society can be operationalized. One important mode of operationalization is articulations. An important contribution of this dissertation is the emphasis on the ‘work of definition’ that has to be conducted by consumers when being confronted with newly emerging (nano) risks. The commitments of consumers with nanotechnology are analysed and theoretically elaborated with the help of the theory of the Risk Society by Ulrich Beck. In the thesis, focus group studies are one situation where ‘work of definition’ can be observed and evolving outcomes can be traced. Further, the empirical data include stakeholder interviews, as well as content analysis of international advertisements for nano-enabled consumer products. A general finding is that consumers, in focus group interactions , do not limit themselves to risk, but more often discuss responsibilities. A recurrent storyline in the discussions of the focus groups is: “New is worrisome”; “But old is worrisome too” and finally “Yes, new is like old – but with possible added benefits”. Stakeholder interviews show optimism to nanotechnology and technology in general. Enactors experiment with marketing of nano-enabled products. A challenge for civil society organisations is to adopt knowledge-based policies and decision-making on the complex and dynamic developments of nanotechnology. The findings and analysis have relevance even for other emerging technologies.

AB - Risks are high on the agenda in our society, to the extent that we might refer to the society as a risk society. Our society experiences emerging technologies, like nanotechnology. Different actors respond to this in a variety of ways. Among these are the consumers, an important, but neglected category of actors in this context. Arguably it is in our role as consumers we first encountered nanotechnology, in the form of nano-enabled products at the consumers market. What consumers think and do, reacting to the mixed messages about benefits and risks of nanotechnology, contributes to how the risk society (with regard to nanotechnology) is developed, and in that sense becomes operationalized. The theme of this thesis, is not just the responses of consumers (and how others perceive these) to the introduction of nanotechnology, but also a case study of how the risk society can be operationalized. One important mode of operationalization is articulations. An important contribution of this dissertation is the emphasis on the ‘work of definition’ that has to be conducted by consumers when being confronted with newly emerging (nano) risks. The commitments of consumers with nanotechnology are analysed and theoretically elaborated with the help of the theory of the Risk Society by Ulrich Beck. In the thesis, focus group studies are one situation where ‘work of definition’ can be observed and evolving outcomes can be traced. Further, the empirical data include stakeholder interviews, as well as content analysis of international advertisements for nano-enabled consumer products. A general finding is that consumers, in focus group interactions , do not limit themselves to risk, but more often discuss responsibilities. A recurrent storyline in the discussions of the focus groups is: “New is worrisome”; “But old is worrisome too” and finally “Yes, new is like old – but with possible added benefits”. Stakeholder interviews show optimism to nanotechnology and technology in general. Enactors experiment with marketing of nano-enabled products. A challenge for civil society organisations is to adopt knowledge-based policies and decision-making on the complex and dynamic developments of nanotechnology. The findings and analysis have relevance even for other emerging technologies.

M3 - PhD Thesis - Research external, graduation UT

PB - Universiteit Twente

CY - Enschede

ER -

Throne-Holst H. Consumers, Nanotechnology and Responsibilities Operationalizing the Risk Society.. Enschede: Universiteit Twente, 2012. 314 p.