Nanobiotechnology and Ethics: Converging Civil Society Discourses

  • Alexandra Plows
  • Michael Reinsborough
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 101)

Nanobiotechnology as a “converged” technological platform (CT = Converging Technologies) is discussed in relation to discourse within civil society. The conflicts and ethical debates surrounding nanobiotechnology can be intuited from these larger discursive frames of reference. Complimenting Glimell and Fogelberg's (2003) research documenting an emergent epistemic culture amongst scientists researching and working on nanotechnologies, and more recent research on the multiple meanings of nanotechnology in the political economy (Wullweber, 2007), this paper traces an emergent ethnography of engaged actors within civil society as they develop discursive and mobilization repertoires. Whilst on occasion ambivalent about the combination of specific promises and risks in relation to nanobiotechnology, in general a broad critique of the politics of technology is emerging as a counter epistemology or “Master Frame” (Snow & Benford, 1992) amongst certain predisposed UK civil society groups. Converging Technologies provide the issue around which this broad critique is solidifying. Thus whilst many of the specific risks raised by nanobiotechnology (and other CT) are definitively new, many of the p?tential risks and grievances, have been raised before in relation to other issues of scientific and environmental controversy, often by the same actor groups. Thus convergence is a useful metaphor for appreciating that broader frame of reference from within which the emerging conflicts and ethical debates about nanobiotechnology are being situated.

If you go ten, fifteen years in the future, you're not going to be able to distinguish between what's nano technology, what's bio technology, what's information technology or what's genetic engineering. They're all going to be the same kind of technologies … just employed in different ways and different places. (“Mike”, technology watchdog campaigner, in interview January 2004)


Nanotechnology biotechnology converging technologies civil society risk discourse social movements 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexandra Plows
  • Michael Reinsborough
    • 1
  1. 1.Queens UniversityBelfast

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