Ashley Shew
Virginia Tech
We are in a position today to appreciate the ambiguity of technologies: that they are good, and bad, and neutral and present challenges in different ways. Reading U.S. national nanotechnology documents and histories of nanotechnology, one finds that rhetoric idealizing progress without serious consideration of negative side-effects remains unfortunately fixed within stories constructed about technology. Though we should be better aware of the potential for unintended consequences and negative social effects, the narratives about nanotechnology today still center on unlimited power over nature, much like technological narratives of eras past. David Nye, in America as Second Creation: Technology and Narratives of New Beginnings, explains how American narratives during the 19th century focused on technology as both transformative and stabilizing. In this time, it seemed as if nature was ready and waiting to be transformed and made useful for the new Americans. While negative effects are predicted and worried about by some elements, the overwhelming voice in discussions of nanotechnology come from the funding agencies, governments, and businesses that seek to profit from it. This article gives us reason to be more skeptical about the types of rhetoric used in this field. The rhetoric used in nanotechnology mimics that of earlier rhetorics of progress. By focusing specifically on narratives of progress within the United States, this article reveals the odd correspondence of rhetoric about nanotechnology with earlier American rhetoric on other technologies.
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DOI 10.1177/0270467613495523
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