Governing Technoscience in Society: Tracing the Dialectics of Enthusiasm, Ambivalence, and Adjustment

  • Erik FisherEmail author
Part of the Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook book series (SOSC, volume 30)


By embracing the performative logic of technoscience, state policy makers are reimagining the relations among science, technology and society, in the process creating both practical and symbolic shifts in governance. These shifts—including possibilities for more deliberative and interactive roles for scientists, social scientists, and public citizens—are themselves situated within a technoscientific frame: they potentially open up more distributed and diverse opportunities for participation in the social processes that shape technological emergence, even as they organize such participatory roles within more broadly coordinated attempts at governmental control and frame them in terms of a state-sponsored imaginary of collectivized innovation and sociability. Using the case of the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the United States, this chapter reflects on the interplay of enthusiasm and ambivalence that led to an increasing acknowledgement of the role social sciences can play in the performance of technoscientific processes. While this development can be seen as an opportunity for distributive and democratic governance of technoscience, it also intensifies technosciencesociety entanglements.


Technoscience Nanotechnology Governance Ambivalence Policy 



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (grant 1535120).


  1. Anderson, B. 2007. Hope for Nanotechnology: Anticipatory Knowledge and the Governance of Affect. Area 39 (2): 156–165.Google Scholar
  2. Arnall, A.H. 2003. Future Technologies, Today’s Choices: Nanotechnology, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics; A Technical, Political and Institutional Map of Emerging Technologies. London: Greenpeace Environmental Trust.Google Scholar
  3. Barben, D., E. Fisher, C. Selin, and D.H. Guston. 2008. Anticipatory Governance of Nanotechnology: Foresight, Engagement, and Integration. In The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, ed. E. Hackett, O. Amsterdamska, M. Lynch, and J. Wajcman, 979–1000. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bennett, I., and D. Sarewitz. 2006. Too Little, Too Late? Research Policies on the Societal Implications of Nanotechnology in the United States. Science as Culture 15 (4): 309–325.Google Scholar
  5. Berube, D.M. 2006. Nano-Hype: The Truth Behind the Nanotechnology Buzz. Amherst: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar
  6. Borup, M., et al. 2006. The Sociology of Expectations in Science and Technology. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 18 (3–4): 285–298.Google Scholar
  7. Bush, G.W. 2006. State of the Union Address, January 31, 2006.Google Scholar
  8. Clinton, W.J. 2000. President Clinton’s Address to Caltech on Science and Technology. The White House: Office of the Press Secretary. Accessed on 20 Mar 2018.Google Scholar
  9. Cobb, M.D., and J. Macoubrie. 2004. Public Perceptions About Nanotechnology: Risks, Benefits and Trust. Journal of Nanoparticle Research 6 (4): 395–405.Google Scholar
  10. Conca, K. 1994. Rethinking the Ecology-Sovereignty Debate. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 23 (3): 701–711.Google Scholar
  11. Crichton, M. 2002. Prey. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  12. Crow, M.M., and D. Sarewitz. 2001. Nanotechnology and Societal Transformation. In AAAS Science and Technology Policy Yearbook, ed. A.H. Teich, S.D. Nelson, C. McEnaney, and S.J. Lita, 89–101. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.Google Scholar
  13. Economist, The. 2004. Small Wonders, 29 December. Accessed on 20 Mar 2018.
  14. ETC Group. 2003a. The Big Down: From Genomes to Atoms. Accessed on 13 July 2017.
  15. ———. 2003b. Nanotech and the Precautionary Prince. Accessed on 13 July 2017.
  16. Felt, U. 2014. Within, Across and Beyond: Reconsidering the Role of Social Sciences and Humanities in Europe. Science as Culture 23 (3): 384–396.Google Scholar
  17. Fisher, E. 2005. Lessons Learned from the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Program (ELSI): Planning Societal Implications Research for the National Nanotechnology Program. Technology in Society 27 (3): 321–328.Google Scholar
  18. ———. 2007. Ethnographic Invention: Probing the Capacity of Laboratory Decisions. NanoEthics 1 (2): 155–165.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 2011. Editorial Overview: Public Science and Technology Scholars: Engaging Whom? Science and Engineering Ethics 17 (4): 607–620.Google Scholar
  20. ———. 2019. Governing with Ambivalence: The Tentative Origins of Socio-Technical Integration. Research Policy 48 (5): 1138–1149.Google Scholar
  21. Fisher, E., and R.L. Mahajan. 2006. Contradictory Intent? US Federal Legislation on Integrating Societal Concerns into Nanotechnology Research and Development. Science and Public Policy 33 (1): 5–16.Google Scholar
  22. Fisher, E., and D. Schuurbiers. 2013. Socio-Technical Integration Research: Collaborative Inquiry at the Midstream of Research and Development. In Early Engagement and New Technologies: Opening up the Laboratory, 97–110. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  23. Fisher, E., et al. 2015. Mapping the Integrative Field: Taking Stock of Socio-Technical Collaborations. Journal of Responsible Innovation 2 (1): 39–61.Google Scholar
  24. Guston, D.H. 2014. ‘Understanding ‘Anticipatory Governance. Social Studies of Science 44 (2): 218–242.Google Scholar
  25. Hackett, E., and D. Rhoten. 2011. Engaged, Embedded, Enjoined: Science and Technology Studies in the National Science Foundation. Science and Engineering Ethics 17 (4): 823–838.Google Scholar
  26. House Committee on Science. 2003. Report 108–89. S. Boehlert, US House of Representatives, 108th Congress, 1st Session.Google Scholar
  27. Irwin, A., and M. Michael. 2003. Science, Social Theory & Public Knowledge. Philadelphia: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Jasanoff, S. 2011. Constitutional Moments in Governing Science and Technology. Science and Engineering Ethics 17 (4): 621–638.Google Scholar
  29. Joy, B. 2000. Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us, Wired 8 (4). Accessed on 13 July 2017.
  30. Kearnes, M., and B. Wynne. 2007. On Nanotechnology and Ambivalence: The Politics of Enthusiasm. NanoEthics 1 (2): 131–142.Google Scholar
  31. Kennedy, J. 2008. Nanotechnology: The Future is Coming Sooner Than You Think. In Presenting Futures, 1–21. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  32. Litfin, K.T. 1997. Sovereignty in World Ecopolitics. Mershon International Studies Review 41 (2): 167–204.Google Scholar
  33. Lok, C. 2010. Nanotechnology: Small Wonders. Nature News 467 (7311): 18–21.Google Scholar
  34. Lucivero, F. 2015. Ethical Assessments of Emerging Technologies. New York/Dordrecht/London: Springer.Google Scholar
  35. Macnaghten, P., M.B. Kearnes, and B. Wynne. 2005. Nanotechnology, Governance, and Public Deliberation: What Role for the Social Sciences? Science Communication 27 (2): 268–291.Google Scholar
  36. Marris, C. 2015. The Construction of Imaginaries of the Public as a Threat to Synthetic Biology. Science as Culture 24 (1): 83–98.Google Scholar
  37. McCray, W.P. 2005. Will Small Be Beautiful? Making Policies for Our Nanotech Future. History and Technology 21 (2): 177–203.Google Scholar
  38. McGrail, S. 2010. Nano Dreams and Nightmares: Emerging Technoscience and the Framing and (Re) interpreting of the Future, Present and Past. Journal of Futures Studies 14 (4): 23–48.Google Scholar
  39. Mnyusiwalla, A., A.S. Daar, and P.A. Singer. 2003. “Mind the Gap”: Science and Ethics in Nanotechnology. Nanotechnology 14 (3): R9.Google Scholar
  40. National Research Council; Division of Engineering and Physical Sciences; Committee for the Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative 2002. 2002. Small Wonders, Endless Frontier: A Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  41. Nordmann, A. 2006. Collapse of Distance: Epistemic Strategies of Science and Technoscience. Danish Yearbook of Philosophy 41 (7): 7–34.Google Scholar
  42. ———. 2010. A Forensics of Wishing: Technology Assessment in the Age of Technoscience. Poiesis & Praxis 7 (1–2): 5–15.Google Scholar
  43. Obama, B. 2010. State of the Union Address, January 27, 2010.Google Scholar
  44. Peterson, C.L. 2004. Nanotechnology: From Feynman to the Grand Challenge of Molecular Manufacturing. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 23 (4): 9–15.Google Scholar
  45. Pollock, N., and R. Williams. 2010. The Business of Expectations: How Promissory Organizations Shape Technology & Innovation. Social Studies of Science 40 (4): 525–548.Google Scholar
  46. Rip, A. 2006. Folk Theories of Nanotechnologists. Science as Culture 15 (4): 349–365.Google Scholar
  47. ———. 2009. Futures of ELSA. EMBO Reports 10 (7): 666–670.Google Scholar
  48. Roco, M.C., and W.S. Bainbridge. 2001. Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. Arlington: National Science Foundation.Google Scholar
  49. Schuurbiers, D. 2011. What Happens in the Lab: Applying Midstream Modulation to Enhance Critical Reflection in the Laboratory. Science and Engineering Ethics 17 (4): 769–788.Google Scholar
  50. Schwarz, A., and A. Nordmann. 2011. The Political Economy of Technoscience. In Science in the Context of Application, ed. M. Carrier and A. Nordmann, 317–336. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  51. Selin, C. 2007. Expectations and the Emergence of Nanotechnology. Science, Technology & Human Values 32 (2): 196–220.Google Scholar
  52. Smart, B. 1998. Facing Modernity: Ambivalence, Reflexivity and Morality. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  53. Stilgoe, J., R. Owen, and P. Macnaghten. 2013. Developing a Framework for Responsible Innovation. Research Policy 42 (9): 1568–1580.Google Scholar
  54. Thorpe, C., and J. Gregory. 2010. Producing the Post-Fordist Public: The Political Economy of Public Engagement with Science. Science as Culture 19 (3): 273–301.Google Scholar
  55. US Congress, 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003. 2003. Public Law no 108–153, 117 STAT. 1923.Google Scholar
  56. Valve, H., and R. McNally. 2013. Articulating Scientific Practice with PROTEE: STS, Loyalties, and the Limits of Reflexivity. Science, Technology, & Human Values 38 (4): 470–491.Google Scholar
  57. Viseu, A. 2015. Caring for Nanotechnology? Being an Integrated Social Scientist. Social Studies of Science 45 (5): 642–664.Google Scholar
  58. Wilsdon, J., and R. Willis. 2004. See-Through Science: Why Public Engagement Needs to Move Upstream. London: Demos.Google Scholar
  59. Wynne, B. 2011. Lab Work Goes Social, and Vice Versa: Strategising Public Engagement Processes. Commentary on: “What Happens in the Lab Does Not Stay in the Lab: Applying Midstream Modulation to Enhance Critical Reflection in the Laboratory”. Science and Engineering Ethics 17 (4): 791–800.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School for the Future of Innovation in SocietyArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations