Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2003
Technology and Risk: Public Perception and Social Assessment
Lecturer: Professor Brian Wynne,
Centre for Science Studies,
Lancaster University, UK
Main disciplines: Technology and Innovation Studies,
Political Science, Sociology
Dates: 4. - 8. August 2003
This course will attempt to examine the ways in which human dimensions of science and technology are understood and represented in contemporary processes of conflict, debate and decision-making about new technologies like genetic manipulation and genomics in agricultural and health domains. It will therefore provide sociological and anthropological perspectives on scientific and other representations of nature and environment as the field of intervention in nature by modern science and technology.
The issue of risk has become a defining feature of modern society's encounters with such problems, after the work of such theorists as Beck and Giddens. Technology has been examined as a social entity by the field of social studies of science and technology, defining scientific knowledge and technological paradigms as fundamentally similar instrumental cultures. This course will therefore examine risk as a modern 'scientific' discourse of social and environmental assessment of technology. It will analyse this multifaceted scientific discourse sociologically, so as to expose various social and human commitments and contingencies shaping these 'regulatory' sciences, and proceed to ask what are the consequences and implications of the widespread attempts in recent years to make such sciences more participatory, transparent and accountable to public stakeholders and citizens.
This sociological analysis of 'risk' knowledges will lead on to an examination of the roles of 'lay' perceptions of 'risk' in relation to scientific expert knowledge in modern conflicts about technologies like nuclear power and genetic technologies. This will then be extended globally, into analysis of the relationships between indigenous and scientific knowledges in development contexts and in the increasingly globalised networks of knowledge and commercialization which are occurring over biodiversity and bio-prospecting. This includes the attempts to document and data-base indigenous knowledges of nature as ways of protecting them and giving them ownership rights over products derived form such knowledge which has often been openly public and social, contextual knowledge, not subject to control by property-ownership cultures.
One can therefore define this course as a sociology of knowledge approach to understanding the roles of modern science in a globalising world, and understanding better the problems involved in rendering those sciences more democratically accountable and legitimate.
Seminar discussions may include issues such as:
- precautionary principle and uncertainty
- society as the laboratory for modern scientific knowledge-production
- democratizing science - a contradiction-in-terms?
Outline of Lectures
Note! The following classification of required and supplementary readings is prelimiary and will be revised shortly.
Lecture 1: An Introductory Overview - Views of Technology and Science as Historical Processes
This, introductory overview will describe the views of science and technology as deterministic, thus shaping and confining the dominant view of the overall problem of 'social control of technology'. The 'social construction of technology' perspective will then be compared with this, and the relations between these and views of science as a historical process will be analysed, for example through the work of Merton and co-workers, and the post-Kuhnian sociology of scientific knowledge, as well as the Frankfurt critical theory associated with Habermas and Marcuse.
- S. Toulmin, Cosmopolis, chapter 1, "What is the Problem About Modernity?", pp. 5-44, University of Chicago Press, 1992.
- J. Ellul, "The Technological Order", in C. Mitcham and R.Mackey, (eds) Philosophy and Technology, New York, Free Press, 1972: pp. 86-105.
- B. Latour, "Give me a Laboratory and I will Raise the World", in M. Mulkay and K. Knorr-Cetina (eds), Science Observed, Sage, 1983, pp. 141-170.
- R.K. Merton, The Sociology of Science, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1973, chapter 12, "Science and the Social Order", pp. 254-266.
Lecture 2: Environment and Risk as Critical Discourses of Science and Technology
This lecture presents a classification of concepts of risk, and discusses the role of risk assessments in the study of the environment, with reference to technological change and social learning.
- Ortwin Renn, "Concepts of Risk: a classification", in S. Krimsky and D.Golding eds., Social Theories of Risk (1992): pp. 53-79
- B. Wynne, "Risk and Environment as Legitimatory Discourses of Technology", Current Sociology, vol. , July 2002, pp.
- B. Wynne, "Risk and Social learning: reification to engagement", in Krimsky and Golding (eds) 1992: pp.
- Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Risk and Rationality, Berkeley, Ca., University of California Press 1991, chapter 4, "Objectivity and Values in Risk Assessment: why we need a procedural account of rationality", pp. 53-65.
Lecture 3: Technology as Society - what is involved?
This lecture discusses the role of technology in society: notions of rationality emerging from technology, how technological development is embedded in social developments, and the limits and possibilities of technology assessment.
- A. Feenberg, "Escaping the Iron Cage, or, Subversive Rationalisation and Democratic Theory", in R. von Schomberg (ed.) Democratising Technology, International Centre for Human and Public Affairs, Hengelo The Netherlands, 1999: pp. 1-16
- L. Winner, The Whale and the Reactor: a search for limits in an age of high technology, University of Chicago Press, 1986: chapter 2, "Do Artefacts have Politics?", pp. 19-39, and chapter 8, "On Not Hitting the Tar-baby", pp. 138-154.
- B. Wynne, "Technology Assessment: superfix or superfixation?", in N. Cross, D. Elliot and R. Roy (eds), Man-Made Futures, Hutchinson, Open University Press, 1974, pp. 148-157.
- T. Pinch and W. Bijker, "The Sociology of Facts and Artefacts: or how the sociology of science and sociology of technology might benefit each-other" Social Studies of Science, vol. 14(3), 1984, pp. 399-441.
- H. van Lente, Promising Technology: the dynamics of expectations in technological developments, Enschede, University of Twente, NL, 1993: chapters 4 and 7. pp. 125-144; pp. 205-236.
Lecture 4: Framing Risk as a Social Assessment Discourse: technocracy or democracy?
- Sheila Jasanoff, The Fifth Branch: science advisers as policymakers, Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1990, especially chapters 2 and 3, p.
- Theodore Porter, Trust in Numbers: the pursuit of objectivity in science and public life Princeton, Princeton University Press 1995, chapters 2 and 3, pp. 11-48.
- A. Rip, "Controversies as Informal Technology Assessment", Knowledge, vol. 8, 1987, pp. 349-371.
- A. Cambrosio and C. Limoges, "Controversies as Governing Processes in Technology Assessment" Technology Assessment and Strategic Management, vol. 3(4), 1991, pp. 377-396.
- O. Brekke and E. Eriksen, "Technology Assessment in a Deliberative Perspective", in von Schomberg (ed), Democratising Technology, 1999, pp. 93-119.
- Van Dommeln, (ed), Coping with Deliberate Release: the limits of risk assessment, International Centre for Human and Public Affairs, Tilburg NL, 1996.
- Paul C. Stern and Harvey V. Fineberg, editors, Understanding risk: informing decisions in a democratic society; Committee on Risk Characterization, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council. Washington, D.C. National Academy Press 1996, chapter 1, pp. 11-37.
- William Lowrance, Of acceptable risk : science and the determination of safety Los Altos, Cal., William Kaufmann 1976, "Measuring Risk", p.
Lecture 5: Uncertainty and Risk as Science : the conundrum of ignorance and unpredictability
This lecture discusses how risk is framed in social assessment discourses. What are the relative impacts of the forces of technocracy and democracy?
- Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Burying Uncertainty: risk and the case against geological disposal of nuclear waste, Berkeley: University of California Press 1993, chapter 3, pp. 27-38.
- B. Wynne "Frameworks of Rationality in Risk Assessment" in J. Brown (ed), Environmental Threats, London, Pinter, 1989: chapter 5, pp.
- B. Wynne "Managing and Communicating Scientific Uncertainty in Public Policy", background paper for Harvard University Conference, Biotechnology and Global Governance, May 2001, University of Lancaster. pp.
- C. von Weiszacker, "Lacking Scientific Knowledge or Lacking the Scientific Wisdom of Not Knowing?", in Van Dommeln, (ed), Coping with Deliberate Release: the limits of risk assessment, International Centre for Human and Public Affairs, Tilburg NL, 1996, pp. 195-206.
- R. Grove-White et al., Wising Up, CSEC-IEPPP, Lancaster University, 2001.
Lecture 6: Understanding Public Risk Perceptions (i) psychometric approaches
This lecture provide an overview of psychometric approaches to the understanding of how risk is perceived in the public sphere.
- Royal Society of London, Risk: analysis, perception, management, London, 1992: chapter 5, "Risk Perception", pp. 89-134
- P. Slovic, The Perception of Risk, 2000, esp. chapter 25, "Trust, Emotion, Sex, Politics and Science: surveying the risk assessment battlefield", pp.390-412
Lecture 7: Understanding Public Risk Perceptions (ii) cultural and sociological approaches
This lecture provide an overview of cultural and sociological approaches to the understanding of how risk is perceived in the public sphere.
- Andy Stirling, "Risk at a Turning Point", Journal of Risk Research, (1998), vol.1(2), pp. 97-108.
- Brian Wynne, "Building Public Concern into Risk Management", in Jennifer Brown ed., Environmental Threats, London, Belhaven 1989, chapter 8, pp. 118-132.
- Mike Schwarz and Mike Thompson, Divided We Stand, (1990), chapters 1, 2 and 3.
- Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky, Risk and Culture, Berkeley, University of California Press 1983.
- Robin Grove-White et al, Uncertain World, (1997) available from IEPPP
- Claire Marris, Brian Wynne, Peter Simmons and Sue Weldon, Public Attitudes to Agricultural Biotechnologies in Europe, PABE (2001), 112pp., available from <www.pabe.net>
Lecture 8: Indigenous Knowledges and Modern Science as Understanding Nature: what is involved?
The first part of this lecture reviews our understanding of the ways in which scientific environmental knowledge represents nature, and then compares this with encounters with what is often called indigenous knowledge of nature. Many situations in which environmentalquestions and risks have been encountered involve interactions between modern forms of scientific environmental knowledge, and what are variously called, 'lay', 'local' or 'indigenous' knowledges. Some of these have been dealt with in passing by this stage of the course. But it is valuable to address the question more systematically, if far too briefly in only one session: what are the relationships understood to be between scientific and other ways of understanding and dealing with environmental processes and threats?
A key issue here is the extent to which it is valid to think of our (or others') knowledge of nature and environment as separable from the context of social and technical practices and relationships in which they are developed and used, or as an integrated dimension of their practical cultural context. If the latter is true, then this may present interesting problems to do with how transferable and standardisable we think environmental knowledge can be, or perhaps, what are the conditions required to make it so?
Required Readings (scientific environmental knowledge):
- James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: how certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1998, chapter 8, pp. 262-306, "Taming Nature"; see also chapters 9 and 10.
Required Readings (indigenous knowledge):
- Brian Wynne, "May the Sheep Safely Graze? A reflexive view of the expert-lay knowledge divide", in Scott Lash, Bron Szerszynski and Brian Wynne eds., Risk, Environment and Modernity, London, Sage 1996, pp. 44-83.
Supplementary readings (scientific environmental knowledge):
- J. Stephen Lansing, Priests and Programmers: technologies of power in the engineered landscape of Bali (1991), especially chapters 1, 6, and Conclusion, "Sociogenesis".
- Val Kuletz, "The Experimental Landscape", pp. 245-282, of The Tainted Desert: environmental and social ruin in the American West (1998).
- Bruno Latour, "Circulating Reference: sampling the soil in the Amazon forest", in Latour, Pandora's Hope; essays on the reality of science studies, Cambridge: Harvard U. Press 1999, chapter 2, pp. 24-79.
- Peter Taylor, "Re/constructing Socioecologies: systems dynamics modelling of nomadic pastoralists in sub-saharan Africa", in A. Clarke and J. Fujimura, eds., The Right tools for the job : at work in twentieth-century life sciences, Princeton, Princeton University Press 1992, pp. .
- Nancy Oreskes, Kristin Shrader-Frechette and Keith Belitz, "Verification, Validation, and Confirmation of Numerical Models in the Earth Sciences", Science, (1994), vol. 263, pp. 641-646.
- Sharon Kingsland, Modeling Nature: episodes in the history of population ecology, Chicago, University of Chicago Press 1988, chapter 8, pp. 98-126
Supplementary readings (indigenous knowledge):
- Joop van der Ploeg "Potatoes and Knowledge", in Mark Hobart ed., An Anthropological Critique of Development, London, Routledge 1993, pp.
- Per Olsson and Carl Folke, "Local Ecological Knowledge and Institutional Dynamics for Ecosystem Management: a study of the Lake Racken watershed, Sweden", Ecosystems, (2001), vol. 4, pp. 85-104.
- David Turnbull and Helen Watson-Verran, "Science and Other Indigenous Knowledges", in Sheila Jasanoff et al. eds., Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, London/Thousand Oaks, Sage 1994: revised edition, 2002, pp. 115-139.
- Brian Wynne, "Misunderstood Misunderstandings: social identities and public uptake of Science", Public Understanding of Science, vol. 2 (1992), pp.
- Chris Finlayson, Fishing for truth : a sociological analysis of Northern cod stock assessments from 1977 to 1990, Newfoundland, Canada : ISER, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1994 chapter 6, pp. 31-42, "Is there a place for fishermen in fisheries science?"
- Tim Ingold, The Perception of the Environment, (2000), "Globes and Spheres: the topology of the environment", pp. 209-218
- Ellen Bialewski, "Inuit Indigenous Knowledge and Science in the Arctic", in Laura Nader ed., Naked Science, anthropological inquiry into boundaries, power, and knowledge, New York, Routledge 1996, pp. 216-227.
- Joan Fujimura, "Authorising Knowledge in Science and Anthropology", American Anthropologist, (1998), vol. 100(2), pp. 347-60.
Lecture 9: Indigenous Knowledges as Modern Resources - the documentation-databasing of indigenous knowledge, and 'indigenous participation'?
This lecture disucsses - using primarily case study material - how indigenous knowledges may function as resources for modern environmental risk assessment.
- Arun Agrawal, "Dismantling the Divide Between Indigenous and Scientific Knowledge", Development and Change, (1995), vol. 26(3), pp. 413-39.
- H. Verran, "A Postcolonial Moment in Science: alternative firing regimes of environmental scientists and aboriginal landowners", Social Studies of Science, vol. 32 (5-6), 2002, pp. 384-405.
- J. P. Brosius, "Endangered Forest, Endangered People: environmentalist representations of indigenous knowledge", in R. Ellen, P. Parkes and A. Bicker, (eds), Indigenous Environmental Knowledge and its Transformtions, Char, Harwood Academic Publications, 2000: pp. 293-318.
- J. R. Campbell, "Interdisciplinary Research and GIS: why local and indigenous knowledge are discounted", in P. Sillitoe, A. Bicker and J. Potier, (eds), Participating in Development: approaches to indigenous knowledge, London, Routledge, 2002: pp. 189-205.
- M. Alexiades and D. M. Peluso, "Annex 1, Prior Informed Consent : the anthropology and politics of cross-cultural exchanges", in S. Laird (ed) Biodiversity and Traditional Knowledge, London, Earthscan, 2002: pp. 221-227
- B. Cooke and U. Kothari, (eds), Participation: the new tyranny? London, Zed 2001, Especially chapters 1, 2 and 3, pp. 1-55.
- M. Green, "Participatory Development and the Appropriation of Agency in Southern Tanzania", Critique of Anthropology, vol. 20(1), 2000, pp. 67-89.
- D. Dunkerley and P. Glasner, "Empowering the Public? Citizens' Juries and the New Genetic Technologies", Critical Public Health, vol. 8(3), 1998, pp. 181-192.
- J. Goven, ?(to follow)
Lecture 10: Environmental Risks and Modernity - "Risk Society"?
The notion that modern society has become a 'risk society' because of its ever-intensifying dependency on the material exploitation of nature (and other humans) through science and technology, was first advanced by Ulrich Beck in 1986, and has become almost a defining discourse of current society and academic debate, not only over risk and environmental issues. After a more global excursions into the forms of encounter between modern and traditional knowledges of nature and environment, and of our ways of understanding these, we return to some questions which I will have aired in the first session, about the historical meanings of 'risk' and 'environment'.
We particularly focus here on how these potent terms have been institutionally 'domesticated' and given quite channelled meanings, which may not adequately capture the much wider range of meanings which wider society variably wishes to give the experiences and events and relationships to which they are thought to refer. The big question of reflexivity, and whether - and if so how? - social institutions can exercise it, is addressed in this session, along with critical examination of the Risk Society/Reflexive Modernisation thesis, and of the big if elusive issue of power.
This final session may also discuss various articles which describe just how much more variable and multidimensional the meanings of 'risk' can be, depending on the context. This suggests questions - which we should have opened up already through the other sessions and case-studies - about how the discourse of risk, including scientific discourses of risk, may also act as a cultural vehicle for communicating other kinds of concern and meaning beyond the direct meaning being apparently expressed. The nature of this issue, especially under increasingly globalised economic and political conditions, is worth examination.
- I. Welsh and R. McKechnie, "When the Global Meets the Local: critical reflections on reflexive modernisation", in F. Buttel, D. E. Riley et al eds., Sociological Theory and the Environment: classical foundations, contemporary insights, Lanham, Md. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2002, pp.
- U. Beck, "Risk Society Revisited: theory, politics and research programmes", in Barbara Adam, Ulrich Beck and Joost van Loon eds., The Risk Society and Beyond: critical issues for social theory, London, Sage 2000, pp. .
- A. Kerr and S. Cunningham-Burley, "On Ambivalence and Risk: reflexive modernity and the new genetics", Sociology (2000), vol. 34(2), pp. 283-304
- U. Beck, Anthony Giddens, and Scott Lash, eds., Reflexive Modernisation: politics, tradition and aesthetics in the modern social order, Cambridge, Polity 1994.
- U. Beck, Risk Society: towards as new modernity, Sage, London 1992,
- U. Beck, Ecological Politics in an Age of Risk, Cambridge, Polity 1995,
- T. Benton, "Beyond Left and Right? Ecological Politics, Capitalism and Modernity", in Michael Jacobs ed., Greening the Millennium? The new politics of environment Oxford, Blackwell 1997, pp. 34-46 (Beck also has a relevant paper in this volume).
- J. Alexander and P. Smith, "Social Science and Salvation: risk society as mythical discourse", Zeitschrift für Soziologie, (1996), vol. 25(4), pp. 251-262
- Pat Caplan ed., Risk Revisited, London, Pluto 2001.
Brian Wynne is Professor of Science Studies, Research Director of the Centre for the Study of Environmental Change and Chair of the Centre for Science Studies at Lancaster University. He has a degree in Natural Sciences (1968) and Ph.D. in materials science (1971), both from Cambridge University, and a M.Phil. in Sociology of Science (1977) from Edinburgh University.
Brian's work has covered technology and risk assessment, and public risk perceptions, focusing especially on the relationships between expert risk knowledge, public and other 'non-expert' knowledge, and policy decision making. Amongst many other publications he has published a book about the 1977 Windscale Inquiry into the THORP nuclear reprocessing facility proposal, and another comparing interactions between technical and institutional factors in hazardous wastes management in several countries. He has also conducted several European studies of implementation of public information requirements under the 1982 'Seveso' Directive on major industrial risks. Recent books include Misunderstanding Science?, edited with Alan Irwin. He is currently completing a major text entitled 'Risk Reflexivity and Representation', to be published later this year.
In 1981 Brian was Visiting Scientist at the EEC Research Centre, Ispra Italy, and in 1983-84 he was leader of the risk programme at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg Austria.
Brian has been a consultant on risk and related issues for amongst others, the UK government, OECD, EEC, UN, and Greenpeace UK, and until recently was a member of the Management Board of the European Environment Agency.