Societal Implications

Contact Information

Dominique Brossard
Dominique Brossard HeadshotSocietal Implications Leader
324 Hiram Smith Hall
1545 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706

The Societal Implications group is researching the online communication of nanotechnology given the increasing reliance by the public on information disseminated through the World Wide Web and its potential influence on public understanding and attitudes toward nanomaterials. The project is mapping the online environment of nanotechnology, examining the potential of the new medium for effective public communication, and testing new ways of online public participation.

In particular, we are exploring the online environment by investigating (a) what kinds of content users are likely to encounter online and (b) the search behaviors they are likely to use in order to find content online. The analysis of content includes the ranking and quantitative analysis of the content themes for the most-visited Web sites and blogs devoted to nanotechnology. This includes a sample of commercial blogs, government-funded Web sites and private blogs. The analysis of search patterns deals with the relative volume of searches devoted to nanotechnology in a number of subfields, such as health or environment.

Based on this understanding of the online environment, we are examining the potential of the new medium for effective public communication, education, and outreach. We are assessing the psychological processes through which lay audiences make sense of complex information conveyed through the Internet. More particularly, we are exploring how different value predispositions and affective strategies might be used by lay publics to make sense of information related to engineered nanomaterials when presented through different formats.

Finally, we are testing how our research findings apply to real-world online settings of lectures, discussions, Web casts, and other forms of educational outreach to understand new forms of online public participation.

Societal Implications Highlights

Selecting Our Own Science: How Communication Contexts and Individual Traits Shape Information Seeking

Tweeting nano: how public discourses about nanotechnology develop in social media environments (2013)

Science, New Media, and the Public (2013)

“Crude Comments” study published (2013)

Online Science News: There’s more to the story: Professors Brossard and Scheufele call for more online research about online science news first previewed in the January 4th publication of Science (2013)

Language matters: Defining nanotech for lay audiences can impact attitudes and understanding (2011)

Narrowing the Nano Discourse? The Web Changes How And What Citizens Learn About Emerging Technologies (2011)