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Waves of controversy: gene technology in Dagens nyheter 1973-96
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2002 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates the public debate on gene technology, between 1973 and 1996, in one of the agenda-setting media in Sweden, Dagens Nyheter. Gene technology is one of the latest controversial technologies which characterise our present Western society. The main concern of the study is the dynamic of this mediated debate on gene technology, which represents variation in the intensity and content of the debate over time. Potential controversies in this debate have also been a major focus. The study is mainly based on a quantitative content analysis of all articles published by Dagens Nyheter with gene technology as the main theme, but also on a qualitative text analysis of a smaller amount of articles covering controversies within the same population of articles.

The results show that the debate has ebbed and flowed in a more or less regular way, as four waves, and that the number of articles increases over time. Different themes have been in focus at different periods of time, each corresponding to a wave: Risk and safety in the late 1970s, ethics in the early 1980s, regulation in the end of the 1980s and finally applications of gene technology in the 1990s. Therefore, the 'RERA hypothesis' was formulated, suggesting that the overall themes of the public debate on a new technology will follow this specific sequence. It is also shown that the coverage is divided between two separate types of debates, or media packages, one reporting latest news and discoveries, and one discussing the technology more critically. This latter debate covers the explicit expressions of the underlying controversy between the scientific and the humanistic view of technology in society.

The author's main conclusion is that the public debate on gene technology follows a wave-like pattern corresponding to cycles of attention given to the issue, and that the characteristics are context initiated. Real world events trigger the underlying controversy between the scientific and humanistic point of view, which, if it fits media logic, is exposed in the media. The media package characterised by controversy brings with it the coverage of general news, and as the controversy ends, interest cools off and so does media attention. Waves of controversy arise.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2002. , 173 p.
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508 ; 29
Keyword [en]
Mass media, public debate, agenda setting, content analysis, society and technology, STS, public discourse analysis, gene technology, genetic engineering, biotechnology, scientific controversies, resistance to new technology, s-curve, life-cycle models
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-60247ISBN: 91-7305-236-1OAI: diva2:558971
Public defence
2002-05-24, sal L 216, Mitthögskolan i Östersund, Östersund, 13:15
Available from: 2012-10-05 Created: 2012-10-05 Last updated: 2013-02-19Bibliographically approved

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Olofsson, Anna
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