I’ve come across a couple interesting blog postings and a podcast about the journalistic, marketing, and communication problems posed by nanotechnology. First here’s my take as informed by reading the postings and listening to the podcast. The journalistic issue is that nanotechnology is one of those science stories that are tough to sell because if people don’t understand at least some of the underlying scientific principles making nanotechnology very hard to discuss without a lot of ‘educational detail’ and that kind of detail can limit your potential audience. You can find another perspective on this by Howard Lovy here.
From a marketing communications or public relations perspective, there’s a lot of promising research that suggests beneficial applications and/or potentially serious risks. It’s hard to tell if the word nano will be perceived as good, bad, or descriptive (e.g. electronic is a neutral description whereas atomic and nuclear have accrued negative connotations). Here‘s another take on the issue.
Making the whole writing/journalism/marketing communication/activism (aside: activists also want to stake nanotechnology territory) thing even harder is the (generally accepted but not official) definition of nanotechnology is a measurement. This fact is still debated within the scientific community (some don’t accept the current definition) and it doesn’t mean much to most people outside the scientific community. As for why it matters? We need ways to discuss things that affect us and it seems that if scientists have their way, nanotechnology will. For more about why it’s important to find ways to talk about nanotechnology, go here for a podcast interview with Stine Grodal, a professor at Boston University.