, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 485-507,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 24 Aug 2012

Reframing and Articulating Socio-scientific Classroom Discourses on Genetic Testing from an STS Perspective

Abstract

In recent decades, Science & Technology Studies (STS) have revealed the dynamic interaction between science and technology and society. Technology development is not an autonomous process and its artifacts are not socially inert. Society and technology shape each other. Technologies often have ‘soft impacts’ in terms of unpredicted side effects on individuals and society. Nevertheless, current societal discourse on technological innovations is still dominated by ‘hard impacts’ such as quantifiable risks for health, safety and the environment. Furthermore, participants in socio-scientific discourses often underestimate their agency in influencing technological innovations, and at the same time overestimate their freedom of choice to use a technology. Past debates on technological innovations have shown how these debates were framed and often caught in fruitless discourse patterns or arguments. Interventionist STS research experiments with solutions to this problem. Assuming that an STS perspective is helpful in reframing and articulating socio-scientific classroom discourses, the case of genetic testing is used to explore this. An important positive ‘hard impact’ of genetic testing is disease prevention. However, this is put into perspective by addressing ‘soft impacts’ such as limited access to certain careers based on genetic risk and changes in the conception of health and the perception of responsibility for one’s health. Discussion stoppers such as ‘playing God’ or ‘We can’t stop technological advancement’ can be challenged through uncovering underlying assumptions. The use of narratives and future scenarios in classrooms seems fruitful in provoking imagination and engaging students in public debates on technological innovations.