Background: Although biotechnology and nanomedicine in Ireland are represented by industry and the healthcare sector as a solution to disease and disability, this is often contested by various groups on the grounds they represnt a threat to humanity or nature. Such narratives also exist in global discourses from popular culture, literature and film. The Irish science curriculum is about to change to allow this type of reflection in biology class. The paper explores the perspectives and modes of argumentation of young people that such a new curriculum might facilitate, and if similar cultural tropes exist for nanotechnologies.

Objective: In this paper, I use frame analysis to explore how discussions around new reproductive and genetic technologies (NRGTs) and nanomedicine in classroom discussions demonstrate framing processes connected to current socioscientific debates, such as those in which faith-based groups, NGOs and science policymakers are involved. Comparisons will be made between bio-and nanotechnologies.

Methods: In the first part of this study, students aged 15-17 years were presented with two basic activities that brought social and moral relevance to reproductive and genetic technologies. Films were used to present reproductive decision scenarios, while a visiting biotechnology presented how his life and work related to his audience and society. Students were asked to relate to characters' decision-making in the films and engage directly with the visiting bioscientist in his life and work. Frames emerged from fieldnotes and recorded transcripts of discussions through frame analysis. The second part of the study will allow young people to explore both NRGTs and nanomedicine.

Interim Results: Frames have been constructed from the first part of this study (NRGTs) and arranged into ‘cultural themes’ (Gamson, 1992). These themes were progress, harmony with nature, fate, risk, the sacred, liberal individualism and social responsibility.

Conclusions: The paper argues that these frames were of a higher complexity than the accepted pro-life/pro-choice dichotomy of many reproductive debates and a multiperspective approach is thus important in classrooms. In addition to interpreting these frames, the paper examines how other emerging socioscientific issues such as nanotechnologies might demonstrate similar framing strategies, and indeed similar science/ nature frames.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Comparative framing of reproductive / genetic technologies and nanotechnologies in the classroom

Padraig Murphy   Dublin City University

Background: Although biotechnology and nanomedicine in Ireland are represented by industry and the healthcare sector as a solution to disease and disability, this is often contested by various groups on the grounds they represnt a threat to humanity or nature. Such narratives also exist in global discourses from popular culture, literature and film. The Irish science curriculum is about to change to allow this type of reflection in biology class. The paper explores the perspectives and modes of argumentation of young people that such a new curriculum might facilitate, and if similar cultural tropes exist for nanotechnologies.

Objective: In this paper, I use frame analysis to explore how discussions around new reproductive and genetic technologies (NRGTs) and nanomedicine in classroom discussions demonstrate framing processes connected to current socioscientific debates, such as those in which faith-based groups, NGOs and science policymakers are involved. Comparisons will be made between bio-and nanotechnologies.

Methods: In the first part of this study, students aged 15-17 years were presented with two basic activities that brought social and moral relevance to reproductive and genetic technologies. Films were used to present reproductive decision scenarios, while a visiting biotechnology presented how his life and work related to his audience and society. Students were asked to relate to characters' decision-making in the films and engage directly with the visiting bioscientist in his life and work. Frames emerged from fieldnotes and recorded transcripts of discussions through frame analysis. The second part of the study will allow young people to explore both NRGTs and nanomedicine.

Interim Results: Frames have been constructed from the first part of this study (NRGTs) and arranged into ‘cultural themes’ (Gamson, 1992). These themes were progress, harmony with nature, fate, risk, the sacred, liberal individualism and social responsibility.

Conclusions: The paper argues that these frames were of a higher complexity than the accepted pro-life/pro-choice dichotomy of many reproductive debates and a multiperspective approach is thus important in classrooms. In addition to interpreting these frames, the paper examines how other emerging socioscientific issues such as nanotechnologies might demonstrate similar framing strategies, and indeed similar science/ nature frames.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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