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Societal Dynamics of Nanoscale Science and Technology:
Media Representations of Nanotechnology

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This database reports on the public representation of nanoscale science and technology (NST) in North American written popular media from 1986-2000.

Brenton Faber, Justin MacKinnon, Margaret Petroccione, Adrienne Povero, and Romana Semouchtchak, Clarkson University.
Technical interface by Justin Leider at Clarkson and Geoff Sauer at Iowa State University.


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About

 

This database reports on the public representation of nanoscale science and technology (NST) in North American written popular media from 1986-2000. We are currently working on reports from 2000-2006. We use the term nanoscience to describe pure research at the molecular level. Such research endeavors to identify the unique physical properties and characteristics of matter at the scale of one-billionth of a meter. We use the term nanotechnology to describe the application of these principles and structures, typically in the creation of nanoscale devices. Our purpose for this project is to describe and characterize media reports in order to better understand the underlying assumptions and social processes that have been associated with NST reporting. This work will help researchers better understand and interpret the societal dynamics, reception, and interpretation of nanoscale work.

There are currently 303 articles in the database. We collected articles using the Proquest and LexisNexis databases and by searching for articles in specific newspapers not categorized by these databases. We used the following terms for search for articles: scanning tunneling microscopy; atomic force microscopy; nanolithography; self assembly; and nanostructure . [1] For copyright reasons, we do not copy the full text of newspaper articles, but we do provide a full citation and descriptive analysis for each article.

 Using “narrative” as the gross unit of our analysis, our objective is to determine how media narratives have depicted NST. To examine and categorize media reports, we used topic code categories developed by Zimmerman et al. [2] These topics codes include: Social Context, Method, Theory/Agent, Data Statistics, Related Research, and Relevance and are elaborated in Table 1.

Topic Code Categories

Topic code Description
Social Context Prestige/bias: who conducted, funded research, where conducted, published
Method How research was conducted, research design and procedures
Theory/agent Why effects occurred, properties of causal agents, underlying mechanisms  
Data/statistics What was observed in the reported study or statistical tests
Related research Replication of or connections with other results
Relevance Importance or applicability of findings

Table 1. Topic code categories (adapted from Zimmerman et. al. 2001, p. 40)

The database is best used with the built-in search engine. Enter your search criteria and select a topic code and the database will return relevant articles. Or, the entire database can be viewed here.

The project has produced two research papers and several conference presentations. They can be accessed here.

The database was created by an undergraduate research team in the Department of Communication & Media at Clarkson University, under the supervision of Professor Brenton Faber. Research assistants have included Justin MacKinnon, Margaret Petroccione, Adrienne Povero, and Romana Semouchtchak. Technical interface was built by Justin Leider at Clarkson and Geoff Sauer at Iowa State University. The site is hosted by the EServer.

For more information, please contact Brenton Faber, Associate Professor, Communication & Media, Clarkson University faber?clarkson.edu, (replace ? with @).

Notes

1. These terms were identified by James Murday, Executive Secretary, National Science and Technology Council's Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology. Murday, J. 2000. The coming revolution: Science and technology of nanoscale structures. AMPTIAC Newsletter 6 (1): 5-10. Advanced Materials and Processing Technology Information Analysis Center, p. 5.

2. Zimmerman, C, Bisanz, G., Bisanz, J., Klein, J., and Klein, P. (2001). Science at the supermarket: A comparison of what appears in the popular press, experts' advice to readers, and what students want to know. Public Understanding of Science, 10, 37-58.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0423400. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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