Word to Watch: Big Nanotech
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Each of these phrases are examples of frame devices, words that act like triggers in activating underlying cultural meanings.
In fact, these frame devices instantly communicate the public accountability frame: Who benefits? Who controls the science? Is this science in the public or in the private interest?
As nanotechnology climbs up the media agenda over the next decade, watch out for the "Big Nanotech" frame device. It will be a sign that interpretations of the issue are moving from a promotional emphasis on social progress and economic development to a potentially more controversy-laden emphasis on public accountability.