Keynote    |    Abstracts   |    Poster


Presented papers will be posted in November 2014. Please check back for updates.


Poster Session

12:15-1:15PM Corwin Pavilion

The Role of NGOs in Facilitating ‘Responsible’ Development of Nanotechnologies in Canada and India

Rumana Bukht, Doctoral Candidate, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester

The process of democratization of technological innovation has involved the participation of various non-state actors, such as NGOS. As the success of new technologies like nanotechnologies rests mainly on consumers (and other actors in the value chain) ad with the consumers giving more and more power to NGOs to represent them, both the public and private sectors are slowly including these NGOs in their activities involving new technologies  (Nugroho, 2009). This paper summarises the main findings of the roles played by NGOs in shaping nanotechnology’s development trajectory in two distinctly diverse regulatory settings, Canada and India. In Canada NGOs are seen to play a substantive and ongoing role in nanotechnology policy debate and development. As opponents of nanotechnology, NGOs are often engaged by Canadian authorities in policy debates in order to capture and incorporate their inputs for regulatory governance of nanotechnologies. In contrast, in India, NGOs are used by scientists and private organisations to help appease public backlash of nanotechnologies by promoting nanotechnologies in rural regions through education and training of poor farmers. As advocates of new technology, NGOs in India are instrumental in taking nanotechnologies from lab to field. Thus, it can be concluded that the early involvement of NGOs to overcome resistance and potential negative reaction and inclusion in policy dialogues has helped against polarisation of nanotechnologies among farmers in India and ‘promotion’ of responsible development of nanotechnologies.

Governing Ability Expectations: A Prerequisite (or Accompanied) Goal to the Democratization of Technology

Lucy Diep1and Gregor Wolbring    
1Graduate Student, Department of Community Health Sciences, Program of Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, University of Calgary

Technologies are regarded as having political content to “the extent that it involves, facilitates, or limits the exercise of power over human beings”. The extent to which technologies can exercise its power has been argued to be driven by ability expectations in accordance to the status quo, as such, the democratization of technologies is, by process, an exercise of ability expectations to the technology’s design, accessibility, and distribution. Therefore, who is involved in the democratization of technologies becomes an important component to the technology’s outcome and its hierarchical status. To be part of the democratization process involves certain abilities and capacities to influence the discourse, as such marginalized groups, such as impaired-labelled groups, often experience under-representation and exclusion from this democratic practice as they face barriers meeting these ability requirements. This begs the question of whether these practices are democratic by definition. We posit further that the goal of democratization of technology is not going far enough but that it has to be accompanied or even proceeded by the goal of democratization of ability expectations and their governance. The governance of ability expectations pose numerous challenges for the ones that do not have the power to shape and control ability expectations especially marginalized groups and their NGO’s. We illuminate with examples from the academic discourses of brain machine interfaces and social robotics how the power to define ability expectations plays itself out in regards to defining the target of the application and the challenges for democratization of ability expectation governance.

NGOs and the Governance of Genetically Modified Crops in Kenya: Democratic Implications of a Techno-Civil Society

Matthew Harsh, Assistant Professor, Centre for Engineering in Society, Concordia University

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are prominent actors in the governance of agricultural biotechnologies and genetically modified (GM) crops in Kenya.  They are at the center of partnerships between scientists, corporations, regulators, and farmers.  Tis poster uses ethnographic data to analyze how NGOs in ag-biotech are able to obtain influence and social agency.  I argue that NGOs can obtain funding and access to key decision-makers because they create and manage organizational identities that link two powerful ideologies: the notion that the advancement of technology is tightly coupled to societal progress, and the view that a strong civil society is necessary for an informed and representative democracy.   I introduce the concept of techno-civil society to understand the merger of these ideologies and illustrate how NGOs frame themselves as neutral representatives of farmers and the general public, as apolitical educators and science communicators and as servants of progress.  NGOs conduct trainings ad workshops about GM that aim to 'demystify' science.  However, these engagements tend not to lead to increased representation of citizens and their values in decisions about how to develop new technologies.  Rather, engagements helped produce a scientize decision-making system that was closed and polarized.  The argument does not condemn NGOs, they still could engage citizens in a manner that is more bi-directional and context sensitive.  But discussion and debate about values connected to GM crops should come to the forefront of such engagements.

Nano Twitter: Can Social Media Provide a Means for Public Engagement about Emerging Technologies

Richard Appelbaum, Barbara Herr Harthorn, Ariel Hasell,1 and Galen Stocking
1Graduate Student, Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara

The science policy community often decries the lack of public understanding about emerging technologies and the potential negative impact this can have on the research community and public policy. Several studies have examined potential public engagement, but this has been largely limited to media like newspapers and blogs that force the public to seek information. This study examines discussion about nanotechnology on Twitter, which offers the potential for more incidental exposure. We collected all nanotechnology Tweets from 2010-2014 and analyzed their language to determine if they were geared toward discussing nanotechnology at an expert level or explaining it in more common language. We also categorized these tweets into posts about research or product. We show that descriptions of products prevail over descriptions of research or any explanations and show that there is an increase in descriptions of products leads to an increase in Tweets explaining how those products work. The results suggest that baic explanations of research may not be filtering down to interested publics, limiting their potential engagement with the scientific community and creating unrealistic product oriented expectations.

Integration of Structuration Theory and Social Capital Theory: Implications for Non-Profit Organizational Management Research in Science and Technology and Underrepresented Communities

Sheron Nicole King, NSF-IGERT Fellow, Doctoral Student in Public Administration, and Research Assistant in at the Genetic Engineering and Society Center, North Carolina State University

People of color and women, especially those living below the poverty line, are less likely to have social capital than their counterparts. Lack of social capital negatively correlates with job promotion, owning homes, financial stability, and inherited social networks. They also have less influence on policy, and are less likely to create social mobility for themselves. One of the areas where this gap becomes evident is in the development and utilization of technological and scientific advances. Specifically, a gap lies between populations that have access to scientific and technological advancements, including but not limited to medical treatments, decision makers, and information surrounding scientific principles and emerging technology. The development and use of genetically engineered food is one area of science and technology where this gap can be seen. As NPOs/NGOs increasingly provide civic goods and services for underrepresented communities, including addressing hunger and food security, questions arise for social scientists and practitioners as to how NPO/NGO management can be more conducive for building technology and science social capital within these communities on an international stage. My theoretical integration attempts to explore how a bridge between structuration theory and social capital theory can be used by NPOs/NGOs, as the world of technology and science changes, to create and expand their consumers’ social capital.


Ranking Digital Rights

Nathalie Marechal, Doctoral student, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California

The global public sphere, which is where ideas are generated, debated, and contested, is increasingly mediated by information and communication technology (ICT) companies with varied awareness of and commitment to human rights principles such as privacy and freedom of expression. Despite initial enthusiasm for the potential of ICTs to revolutionize the work of democracy and human rights activists, their track record has been rather dimmer. From the high-profile blunders of Internet giants Yahoo and Google upon entering the Chinese market in the late 90s and early 2000s to the ongoing revelations about governments’ mass surveillance of their own citizens, it is increasingly apparent that “In the twenty-first century, many of the most acute political and geopolitical struggles will involve access to and control of information,” as Rebecca MacKinnon warned in her 2012 book “Consent of the Networked.” MacKinnon’s Ranking Digital Rights project is developing a methodology for evaluating and ranking the world’s major Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies on policies and practices related to free expression and privacy in the context of international human rights law. While a number of organizations conduct similar rankings of countries or U.S. companies, to date there is no comprehensive evaluation of the companies that provide access - and also barriers - to the global public sphere. In this poster session I plan to present the project, its methodology and its theory of change while situating it in the scholarly literature on information controls and NGO activism.

Threads of Alliance: Grassroots and Flaxroots in Aotearoa New Zealand and Canada

Andie Diane Palmer,1  Makere Stewart-Harawira
1Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta

In British Columbia, the Tsilhqot'in and Secwepemc First Nations oppose the proposed construction of a vast gold mine and associated transmission lines in their territories. The emerging technologies of extraction, driven in part by $12000/ounce gold, and recent sweeping changes to environmental legislation that prefigure Indigenous community concerns as an obstacles to a greater, 'public' interest, make the formulation of strategic community responses all the more urgent. One way these First Nations and their counterparts in Aotearoa New Zealand disrupt the imposition of state and commercial interests is through the strength of their own traditions, which emphasize an ethic of hospitality as part of host-newcomer relations, spiritual connections to ancestors in a physical domain where cultural practices are maintained. The formation of strategic antipodean alliances compatible with their systems of belief and preferred modes of collective action includes a non-non-governmental (NNGO) response, in the form of a Reciprocal International Observer Team (RIOT) that strengthens their community-to-community ties, and enhances their ability to share knowledge and tactics during an unprecedented surge in the global mining sector's demands. Such NNGOs provide a demonstrably effective corollary force to the assisting NGOs, including this case demonstration, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and could add to Indigenous community and NGOs toolkits in the face of land and resource grabs on other parts of the globe.

The Changing Terrains of Regulatory Science in Developing Countries: NGOs, Controversies and “Opening up” of Regulatory Governance

Poonam Pandey,1 Aviram Sharma
1Doctoral student, Centre for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University

NGOs and ‘controversies’ (scientific, social, ethical or political) are the common denominators in most of the cases which have contributed to the changing relationships between science and society over the last few decades. The “opening-up” of the regulatory science for public engagement in its various formats all over the world is generally associated to one or the other factors, sometimes to the extent of fantasizing as well as demonizing. This paper taking the example of three case studies, that are CSE (Centre for Science and Environment) report on the presence of pesticides in soft drinks and bottled water, the agribiotechnology debate and the nanotechnology situation in India, tries to understand the relationship between NGOs and controversies in (re-) defining the science-society relationship. The three cases illustrate how NGOs and controversies by their presence or absence at various stages of technology development shape the various aspects of science-society relationship such as public perception and support, funding, media coverage, regulatory structures and governance of technology.


The Cavalry versus an Electronic Militia: Comparing the IAEA and CTBTO’s Response to Fukushima

Patrick S. Roberts, Associate Professor, School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech

In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, a small and relatively new organization, the CTBTO, went beyond its mission to monitor nuclear tests and offered information about the dispersion of radiation around the world. At the same time, the International Atomic Energy Agency, known by the sobriquet, “the UN’s nuclear watchdog,” drew criticism for not providing enough information in a timely fashion to governments, the media, and citizens looking for answers about the extent of the crisis and the threat posed by radiation. The divergent performance of the IAEA and CTBTO raises questions for theories of public organizations. The life cycle tradition in the sociology of organizations predicts that performance suffers in new organizations because they lack experience. Over time, their learning curves increase and they adapt to their environment and develop more efficient routines and trust with stakeholders. In this case, however, the newer CTBTO improvised efficient routines despite limited resources, and quickly developed trust among users, whereas routines and trust among stakeholders stymied the IAEA’s efforts. This case also offers evidence that the CTBTO exercised a form of bureaucratic power appropriate for a dispersed, social media world, against the wishes of states and other organizations.

Designing a “Responsible” Genetically Engineered Tree? The Role of the NGO in the Advancement of Responsible Innovation in the Biotechnology Sector

Mark Robinson,1 Jason Delborne, Louie Rivers
1Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies/Ethics, DePaul University

In the variegated history of agricultural innovation, the moral morass attached to the development of engineered crops has caused both controversy as well as a scientific conundrum: given the heavy consequences of our increasing capacity to genetically engineer life, how can such innovations occur responsibly? Our project explores the role of the NGO in mediating and anticipating emerging innovations in the creation of genetically engineered trees. While there are ample commercial applications from such innovations, the genetic engineering of trees could also bring about  enormous social uses:  Given the capacity of genetic engineering to save valued tree species from extinction  or to produce biomass more quickly and cheaply for bioenergy, how might an NGO help shape and even drive potential futures?   This project explores several questions: As NGOs operate as major actors in the proposal of governance structures to support the sustainability of forest biotechnology, how do NGOs mediate the commercialization needs of corporate stakeholders and the histories of public reception to genetically engineered organisms (GEOs)? Are newer “responsible innovation” programs, such as those advocated for by NGOs, actually means through which to insulate the sector rom potential public backlash? Could responsible innovation actually be about the creation of more sustainable biotechnology sector? Located at the intersection of industry, academic bioscience, regulators and an increasingly heterogeneous public, genetic engineering is a uniquely momentous case study in considerations of the role of NGOs and the larger public in the evolution of rapidly evolving scientific and technological capabilities.


Exploring the Activism of Manipur Cycle Club (MCC) for promoting Bicycle in the Imphal City, Manipur: Geography of Sustainability Transitions Perspective

Thounaojam Somokanta, Doctoral Candidate, Center for Studies in Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy, School of Social Sciences, Central University of Gujarat

This paper starts off with the identification of research problem by arguing the lack of regional sensitivity of sustainability transitions theories in the urban context of Imphal city. It discusses the environmental activism of Manipur Cycle Club (MCC) is the heart of Imphal city for popularizing bicycles with the idea of better environment, economy and health. Since its inception on 23rd January 2011, the members of the MCC have been organizing cycle campaign around the city for spreading the message of a carbon sustainable city. They also support the global cycle movement known as Critical Mass. MCC drafted the state policy for mitigation and action on climate change and also submitted memorandum to the Chief Minister stating the existing condition of urban transport system and suggested means for a better management of the city. Besides, MCC innovates bamboo cycle for the first time in India in collaboration with South Asian Bamboo Foundation in the five day bamboo cycle building workshop. Multi-Scalar, Multi Level Perspective has been applied to explore the multi actor analysis in the upscaling of grass root innovations of bamboo bicycle in niches and analyze how the niche innovation of bicycle and activism of the MCC try to break through the existing regime of urban transport system. It concludes that MCC plays an important role for the promotion of bicycle in the urban areas of Manipur. The grassroots innovation of bamboo cycle makes a historical landmark for enhancing sustainability transitions of cycle in Imphal.

The Role of Public-Private Partnerships for Disease of Poverty Nanomedicine Research

Thomas Woodson, Assistant Professor, Department of Technology and Society, Stony Brook University

Nanotechnology is considered an important emerging technology and some believe it can have a big role in decreasing poverty and inequality. Through interviews and website content analysis, this paper investigates the role that public partnerships (PPP) ply in nanomedicine research. PPPs are the main actors in research for diseases of poverty (DoP) and if they are not involved with nanotechnology, then it is unlikely that nanomedicines for DoP will be developed. In this study, I find that there are both pro- and anti-nanotechnology PPPs. The pro-nanotechnology PPPs think the technology will be very important for developing new medicines while anti-nanotechnology PPPs believe that the technology is too expensive for DoP medicines and it will take too long to ring nanomedicines to the market. Instead of using nanotechnology, anti-nanotechnology PPPs are in favor of using traditional technologies to create medicines for DoP.

Effectively Communicating New Technologies to the Public Using New Media and Infographics

Yanxiang Zhang,1 Tran Thuy Duong
1Associate Professor, Department of Science Communication, University of Science and Technology in China

New Technologies is developing explosively, many of these technologies is not easy to be understand and get involved in, but the extend that the public knows about new technologies is essentially important for technologies democratizing, this poster will iscuss how could NGO effectively Communicating New Technologies to the Public Using New Media and Infographics.