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The representation of nano as a risk in Swedish news media coverage

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Focusing on the role of language in categorization and on the broad conceptual field centred on the morpheme nano, this study addresses the association between phenomena referred to by words having nano as a constituent and risk in Swedish newspaper reporting. The study raises the question of how nano-associated phenomena (e.g. nanotechnology and nanoparticle) are represented as risks? Articles considered for analysis contain both a word having nano as a constituent and the Swedish words for risk or danger. Articles representing nano-associated phenomena (e.g. nanotechnology and nanoparticle) as risks mainly fall into one of five groups: (I) nanotechnology, without reference to particles, materials or products; (II) nanotechnology, nanoparticles, nanomaterials and/or products containing such particles and materials; (III) nanoparticles in products, but without reference to nanotechnology; (IV) nanotechnology and nanorobots; and (V) non-nanotechnological nanoparticles. For each group, using a theoretical approach addressing the relational nature of risk, the paper analyses representations of objects at risk, bad outcomes, causal conditions, reference to applications and sources cited. Various patterns of these categories emerge for the five groups, indicating a diversified set of associations between nano and risk. In certain respects, the findings support the results of other studies of media reporting on nanotechnology, suggesting certain international patterns of newspaper coverage of nanotechnology drawing on both science and science fiction.
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Keywords: nano; newspaper media; risk

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

Publication date: 2013-02-01

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