Tuesday, March 08, 2005

'Swarm,' 'Prey,' whatever ...

Needless to say, I'm all in favor of this kind of study, since I've been arguing for a couple of years now that public perception of nanotech should not be ignored. However, when they get the name of the Michael Crichton book wrong, I'm not filled with great confidence in this study's overall accuracy.

How Media’s Representation of 'Nanotechnology" Is Shaping Public's Opinion (NewsWise)

    ... “With potential nanotechnology applications across a broad spectrum ranging from disease treatment to computer memory, to environmental pollution control, public awareness of the field is clearly growing fast,” says Brenton Faber, associate professor of Communication & Media at Clarkson University. “But little research has tracked, categorized or sought to understand how nanoscale science and technology is represented in written media.”

    Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Faber and a team of research assistants are now analyzing how nanoscience and nanotechnology are being defined, presented and perceived. This information is important, he explains, because the media plays a major role in “framing” issues, such as a new technology’s “promise” or “threat,” in the public mind. And those public perceptions lead to political agendas and government policies.

    “By understanding this media presentation,” Faber points out, “scientists will be better able to define their own nanoscience agenda.” He notes, for example, a spike in attention following publication of Michael Crichton’s novel Swarm, which depicts potential horror from self-replicating, out-of-control nanobots. More here

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Jonathan Reid said...

Obviously the spike in attention did not include Brenton Faber. Kind of sad that a professor in Communications and Media can't get the name of the book right. Sounds like a nanotech study is about to be undertaken by some nanobrains.

Anonymous said...

Just to give Faber the benefit of the doubt, "Swarm" was not used in quotes, so this could have been an error on the part of the press release writer. -- Charles Q. Choi

Howard Lovy said...

Apparently, the original university press release identified it as "Prey," so the mistake was probably in translation here.